AboveNet Communications Inc. has agreed to purchase a nine-acre tract of land in Reston where it plans to build a 250,000-square-foot building.

The building will house an "Internet Service Exchange," a physical place where the computer servers of various Internet service providers and content companies can sit next to each other to ease communications.

San Jose-based AboveNet is building what it calls a one-hop network to coordinate and speed up data communications. It picked Northern Virginia for its East Coast operations because, "topologically, it's central to the Internet," said Executive Vice President Stephen Belomy.

"There's just a lot of networks that have some kind of presence in the area, so it's a good place to be to connect to everyone else," Belomy said.

Tysons Corner already is the location of MAE East (MAE West is in San Jose), a facility operated by MCI WorldCom Inc. that's essentially a central clearing house for the Internet. AboveNet also has an operation in the same Tysons building that houses MAE East.

AboveNet is buying the land from Mason Hirst, a local company that developed the 75-acre Lake Fairfax business park. Just two weeks ago, AboveNet agreed to lease the neighboring 25,000-square-foot Faraday Building.

Belomy said his company would like to begin construction as soon as it is finished with the permitting process, which usually takes several months.

Although a building this big would normally house 1,000 or more workers, AboveNet will likely have fewer than 100 people there, he said -- it's a building for computers, not people.

That also means the cost will be significantly higher than most similar buildings, Belomy said, although he wouldn't put a precise price tag on it. Such a building costs "hundreds" of dollars per square foot, he said, mostly because of the costly interiors, not the shell or the land.

Delay, a Developer's Friend

Construction has begun on the Greensboro Corporate Center office project in Tysons Corner -- finally.

The project consists of 420,000 square feet of space in two 10-story towers on a tract bordered by Greensboro Drive and Springhill Road.

Local developers Ted Georgelas and Dick Patrick were almost ready to start work on the center last summer. They were delayed when their financing became tangled in the now-ended global credit crunch precipitated by problems in Russia.

Georgelas, however, found a bright side to the delay. "If anything, our position has been improved," he said. "The biggest threat on delays is, the economy turns or the market turns, and that hasn't happened."

All the other buildings that started last year, he said, will deliver before he finishes in late 2000. Since they are leasing quickly, that will leave him with little competition, he said.

Autumn Start for Tower Building

The Tower Cos., the Montgomery County development firm, said it plans to begin construction in October on the first office building in Towers Oaks, a planned 2 million-square-foot office, hotel, retail and residential project in Rockville just off Interstate 270.

The 10-story, 276,000-square-foot Tower Building, which has been approved by the Rockville Planning Commission, will sit at the intersection of I-270 and Wootton Parkway.

The company is promoting the building as high-tech, which gives architect Ben Kishimoto of Kishimoto-Gordon in McLean the opportunity to get a bit poetic. "The Tower Building is a dynamic composition of two overlapping forms," he writes on the building's Web page (www.towerbuilding.com).

"The first is a sweeping curved sail, which energizes the building into the 21st century and structurally anchors it metaphorically on a solid foundation to Earth. The other is the capsule -- the occupied space of state-of-the-art office building technology wired to allow resident companies to lead competition into the future with sweeping views of the `horizon' and beyond."

Hines and Pension Group Buy No. 6

A partnership of Texas-based Hines Interests and the California Public Employees Retirement System has purchased the office building at 1776 G St. NW from its developer, the Robert T. Foley Co.

The eight-story, 260,000-square-foot building is the sixth the partnership has acquired in the past year.

Neither Hines nor CalPERS would disclose the price of the acquisition, but a source familiar with the deal said it was in the "mid-$50 million" range. That works out to roughly $200 per square foot, in line with recent prices for similar quality buildings.

CAPTION: An architect's rendering of plans for the 10-story Tower Building in Rockville.