It was a day of disappointments yesterday for General Services Administration officials trying to auction off a 1.96-acre tract of property located in what they described as a "prestigious downtown area" in Washington.

GSA officials said that they expected the property, a former University of the District of Columbia building and two parking lots at First and D streets NW, to attract a field of 10 bidders. Only four registered for the auction.

The officials expected a to get a bid comparable to the $17 to $25 million that they said nearby commerical properties are worth. But yesterday's high bid was just $11.2 million.

After the auction, GSA invited the high bidder to raise the purchase price and indicated that if the bid was not raised, that the agency might cancel yesterday's auction and hold another next year. Losing bidders will not be allowed to increase their bids, officials said.

"We thought we would do better than this," said Barney Maltby, director of the GSA regional disposal division, which sells unneeded federal properties.

Maltby blamed the lack of bidders on circumstances that he said were beyond the agency's control, adding that there was not enough time for bidders to bid on the property after the government changed the original proposal six weeks ago to include the two parking lots.

The top bidder yesterday was Stephen Goldstein, corporate vice president at the 71-72 Corporation, which he described as a real estate investment company based in New York City.

Goldstein, a real estate broker at Julien Studley, Inc., a real estate company at 1333 New Hampshire Ave. NW, made his bid official by turning over to GSA a certified check for $100,000.