Burdette C. Nicholls, 52, a Washington realtor and major developer in the Dupont Circle area, died Jan. 15 at the Washington Hospital Center of complications following surgery.

Mr. Nicholls and his wife, Louise Currey Nicholls, were partners in Burdette C. Nichols Realtors at 1506 19th St. NW.

Mr. Nicholls opened the agency in 1959 in Georgetown and moved the office to the Dupont Circle area in 1961. Although active in real estate ventures in Georgetown and the Kalorama area,. his main interest was in revitalizing the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

According to associates, he focused on preserving the commercial and residential nature of the central city. He wanted it to be a "graceful and civilized region" in which to work and live, associates said, and he encouraged renovation of downtown properties for these purposes. The Nicholls home also is in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

Born in Sioux Falls, S.D., Mr. Nicholls served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He later was graduated by the University of Minnesota.

From 1954 to 1959 he was a specialist in Chinese affairs for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mr Nicholls was a member of the Washington Board of Realtors.In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sisters, Mrs. George A. Holland Sr. of San Antonio, Tex., and Mrs. Donald M. Gibson of Oakland, Calif.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the George Washington University Medical Center for cancer research or to Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.