Faced with the loss of $600,000 in federal funds, Bowie has come up with an 11th-hour plan for a senior citizens' housing center.

And, according to city officials, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has given the plan its preliminary, verbal approval.

After months of trying to place the project at the former Somerset Elementary School, city officials have opted to shift the location of the proposed 35 residential units and community center to a 9-acre site on New Haven Drive. The city presented its alternative to the federal agency Aug. 24, HUD's deadline for the plan.

Had the city not met the deadline, Bowie could have lost the last two years of a three-year, community development block grant. The money has been slated for the long-anticipated rehabilitation of the community's Huntington section.

But, pending final HUD approval, the city has solved an annoying problem. Mayor Audrey Scott, who called the situation critical at a council meeting last month, said she is optimistic and relieved.

"I am excited about the new plan and happy that we have an outlet," Scott said. "We have had preliminary discussions with HUD, and it seems they have sent people to examine the site, and they approved. Now it is just a question of working out all the small details."

The project, already approved by the state's Department of Economic and Community Development, is also important because the city needs more housing for its elderly residents, Scott added.

If HUD approves, construction will begin within a few months, according to City Manager G. Charles Moore.

The Levitt Corp., which owns the New Haven Drive property, has agreed to sell it to the city, but the price has not yet been determined.

Plans to use the original Somerset School site hit a snag when HUD decided that its $500,000 selling price was too high.

City negotiations with the county, owner of the school, did not produce an agreement. County officials claimed the high selling price was necessary to repay outstanding bond indebtedness on the property.