A McLean developer is starting construction on a 43-acre project in Prince William County that is to include a Harris Teeter supermarket, 200 homes and townhouses, a 120-room hotel and conference center, and about 250,000 square feet of office space.

RMJ Development Group LLC's project, Madison Crescent, will rise at the intersection of routes 15 and 29 in Gainesville on what is now farmland. The development will include about a dozen "live-work" units, in which residents can have offices on the first floor and townhouses upstairs.

The grocery store and some of the housing are to open in late 2006.

"What we're doing here is combining office and upscale retail with housing," said John D. Rhoad Jr., a managing principal at RMJ. "We want to create some demand for office so that people can have no commute. People are now looking, we believe, to be in a place that integrates where they live, work and play."

The project, designed to look like the town of Bath, England, is a sign that demand for housing is growing in the Washington area's outer suburbs, real estate brokers and developers said.

"There's a sense that the outer suburbs are going to benefit with development from the continued sprawl of residential housing further outside the Beltway," said Malcolm Schweiker, a broker at CB Richard Ellis. "Especially with energy costs being what they are, we're hearing that office tenants would prefer working closer to home rather than commuting all the way in. We're talking about local technology firms with 50 people or so and government contractors."

RMJ's project is one of 12 buildings, totaling 550,000 square feet, under construction in Prince William County as of the second quarter, according to CoStar Group, a real estate research company. That compares with five buildings, totaling 92,000 square feet, that were under construction during the second quarter of 2004.

Fire Sale

Old Engine Company 12 is on the market. The District government is hoping the long-vacant firehouse at North Capitol Street and Quincy Place NW will become a catalyst for more development in the neighborhood that has been nicknamed NoMa, for north of Massachusetts Avenue.

"The District is particularly interested in offers that incorporate a sit-down restaurant or cafe that will enliven the space in front of the firehouse and provide for a much needed community gathering spot," the mayor's office said in announcing the solicitation for offers on Friday.

The building, now boarded up, was constructed in 1897 and was last used as a firehouse in 1987. Its Spanish Colonial-style architecture remains intact, however. Offers are due by Nov. 18.

Checking In

Two blocks from the White House, a drab office building that once was used by the phone company Verizon has been turned into a high-end hotel for long-term guests by a Philadelphia-based developer.

Korman Communities Inc., which has similar projects in Philadelphia, New York, London and Boston, spent more than $50 million to gut the office building at 1710 H St. NW and make it into a 141-unit hotel property.

Larry Korman, co-president of Korman Communities, said guests typically stay two to three months. Some stay as long as a year.

"We're not geared for the typical Joe," Korman said. "We're going after the Four Seasons type of guest. We've got a senator, an AOL executive, a Colombian ambassador staying with us. The director of finance for France is taking a penthouse for a few months, and a World Bank director is taking a unit with his wife, who's a concert pianist."

A one-bedroom unit with brushed stainless steel fixtures and marble costs $165 a day. A penthouse, which includes a private elevator and large balcony, costs $595 to $895 a day. The hotel has a fitness center, massage therapy room, spa and cafe.


* The law firm Nixon Peabody LLC signed a 10-year lease for 15,000 square feet at 401 9th St. NW. The firm already has 75,000 square feet in the building, which is owned by Boston Properties.

* Perseus Realty Capital formed a second company called Perseus Realty Partners. The new investment company will be run by Mark Dawejko and Paul Dougherty.

* CACI International Inc. renewed its lease for its 115,000-square-foot headquarters at 1100 N. Glebe Rd. in Arlington. Julien J. Studley, Inc., a real estate services firm, represented CACI in the deal.

* James M. Underhill, a longtime real estate executive, started in his new role as executive managing director for the Washington area for the real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield. Underhill was the founder and president of the Staubach Co.'s northeast office. Previously, he worked for Trammell Crow Co. Underhill succeeds Brian T. McVay, who is returning to tenant representation with Cushman.

Dana Hedgpeth writes about economic development and commercial real estate. She can be reached at hedgpethd@washpost.com.

Madison Crescent is under construction at routes 15 and 29 in Gainesville. An English town inspired the design for the project in Prince William County.