Capital One Financial Corp., the Falls Church company that is one of the nation's largest credit card issuers, is searching for a local site to build a corporate campus that would provide office space for thousands of new workers.

"We have been growing like crazy," said Capital One spokeswoman Diana Don. "We have been adding customers at a rate of about 15,000 per day."

The company is focusing its search in the close-in Northern Virginia suburbs, particularly in Tysons Corner, McLean, Falls Church, Merrifield, Alexandria and Arlington, according to a solicitation sent this week to real estate developers and brokers.

"We have been very successful in Virginia," Don said. "For us, it has been a really good location as far as recruiting people."

Capital One wants 1 million to 1.5 million square feet of office space at the new multi-building campus. That's enough space to house 4,000 to 6,000 employees, although Don said the numbers haven't been determined yet.

The company wants to pick a site by the end of the year and move in its first wave of employees by October 2001, said William Craig, part of the team of brokers at Jones Lang LaSalle Ltd. that has been working with Capital One.

"Our preliminary search has identified about a dozen sites along the Beltway and in the Arlington-Alexandria area," said Craig. "What we're trying to do by going out into the general market is discover sites we might not be aware of," including those that could be created if developers combined neighboring parcels.

Capital One now has 12,000 employees nationally; about 500 of those are in Northern Virginia, spread among parts of four rented office buildings. The company also has call center facilities in Richmond and Fredericksburg.

The new campus would be one of the area's largest corporate complexes.

For instance, the America Online Inc. corporate campus in Loudoun County has 1.2 million square feet of space under construction or completed; when it is built out, it could have as much as 2.5 million square feet of space on 150 acres. Also in Loudoun County, MCI WorldCom Inc. has begun work on a 1.3 million-square-foot campus that could accommodate 4,000 workers by 2001.

Self-contained corporate campuses, which are usually made up of several buildings surrounded by greenery and plenty of parking, have become the suburban office choice for companies big enough to afford them.

Besides acres of cubicles, they often include recreational facilities, coffee bars and whatever other amenities the company believes will attract and retain employees.

Don said Capital One hopes to have such things as a gym and a food court. "We pride ourselves as a really good place to work," she said.