Almost four years after the demolition of a low-income housing project in downtown Rockville, a new government-assisted project built on the same site is preparing to receive low- and moderate-income families.

Sixty-five stucco and wood-trimmed townhouses and a seven-story apartment building with 100 units designed for elderly and handicapped residents were dedicated last week on a 6.2 acre site at Dawson Avenue and Adams Street.

The townhouses will be part of a cooperative while the apartments will be rental units.

The $7 million project built with city, county, state and federal assistance will permit some families who have been priced out of the county's housing market to purchase their own homes, said project developer Anthony C. Koones of American Housing Inc., a development firm based in Chevy Chase.

The townhouse project, known as Heritage Park, will be open to families with annual incomes ranging from $9,700 to $24,000, depending on family size.

It was built on the site of the former Berlin Apartments, a low-income housing project demolished almost four years ago after county and city officials said it was uninhabitable. The site, which remained vacant until the new project began six months ago, was a source of controversy between city officials and area residents. For their part, residents had hoped plans for low-income housing in Rockville would be buried in the rubble of the earlier apartment project.

At the dedication Saturday, Rockville community leader Ron Collins said he and his neighbors still have reservations about the high-rise and townhouses which loom above their modest, one-story Cape Cod-style homes in the city's west end.

Memories of the last low-income project remain, he said, but "we're hopeful these new units will be sold to nice families who will want to take good care of their homes."

Koones told the officials gathered for the dedication that more than half the townhouse units already have been sold. They are scheduled to be occupied early next month. Apartments for the early and handicapped will be ready in January, Koones said.

Under the cooperative purchasing plan for the two- and three-bedroom townhouses, families made a down payment of $1,135 to $1,296, depending on the unit size. Then they pay 25 percent of their adjusted income toward the principal, interest and taxes. (The cost of utilities is deducted from their income.) The difference between the 25 percent payment and the actual monthly cost of $450-$500 will be paid by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Koones explained.

The rental apartments for the elderly and handicapped will be subsidized under a similar formula. A resident manager will be on the premises at all times, and each apartment will have an emergency call bell. The complex includes a community room.

As City Council member John R. Freeland cut the ceremonial ribbon, he said, "No one could have envisioned this four or five years ago."

He said the City Council, before selling the property to Koones, wrote rigid guidelines to ensure the project would not get run down.

"We left nothing to chance," said Freeland, who noted that a member of the city government's staff will sit on the cooperative's board of directors. "We always want to have some tie, some influence over what happens here."

Under the agreement with HUD, the agency's subsidy to the cooperative and to Koones, owner of the rental apartments, will be adjusted according to the inflation rate to ensure sufficient funds to maintain the project.

Koones said this new HUD provision will guarantee the upkeep of the site, unlike some publicly assisted projects which fell into disrepair after owners were saddled by rising utility costs and taxes.

During the dedication ceremony, Dels. Luiz Simmons (R-Rockville) and Jennie Forehand (D-Rockville) presented Koones with a Maryland state flag and a citation for this commitment to "providing decent accommodations for the people of this county."