An international consortium yesterday announced plans for a $90 million office and retail complex along the Alexandria riverfront, saying the project will be a symbol of the Washington area's "emerging status as a world-class commercial center."

"It's got to be one of the most tremendous things happening in our community," said Alexandria Mayor Charles E. Beatley at an announcement luncheon. " . . . I really have to stop and pinch myself sometimes."

City officials said the project, to be called TransPotomac Canal Center and to be completed in late 1986, will advance its image as a city that welcomes foreign investors. Almost half of the financing for the complex will be supplied by the Dutch Institutional Holding Co., the U.S.-based real estate holding division of PGGM, Holland's largest private pension fund.

The center's principal developer is the Alexandria-based firm of Savage/Fogarty Cos. Inc., whose chairman and majority shareholder is Anne Brouwer, a Dutch developer. Other partners in the project are six major U.S. firms, including Union Trust Co. of Maryland and the Abacus Group, a mortgage banking firm and a subsidiary of Japan's Fuji Bank Ltd.

True to the Dutch love of canals -- and to Alexandria's love of restorations -- a centerpiece of the project, which has been five years in the planning, will include restoration of the riverside tidal lock of the Alexandria Canal, which for 50 years linked the Northern Virginia port to Georgetown's C & O Canal.

In addition to the restored canal lock, the finished site will include a three-tiered fountain, a pedestrian promenade along the river and a city-run museum for canal-related archeological relics. The entire project is expected to bring 2,000 jobs to the city, according to Savage/Fogarty officials.

It will be constructed on a 10-acre site just east of North Fairfax Street at First Street in northeast Alexandria, and consist of four terraced buildings of brick and reflective glass ranging in height from four to seven stories. They will provide almost 500,000 square feet of rental space, with views of the Potomac River and downtown Washington. There will be underground parking for 1,275 cars.

The formal announcement of the project took place yesterday at a luncheon in a Georgetown home. It was attended by Alexandria officials and representatives of Dutch and American banking and investment firms that are backing the project.

As the guests sat down to a meal of breast of duckling and French wine while a harp was softly played in the background, Brouwer pledged to make TransPotomac Canal Center "the prestigious suburban complex."

Prior to lunch, guests were shown a slide presentation touting the virtues of Alexandria. The narrator said that a consensus of businesses which have moved to the city is that "being next door to Washington is better than being in Washington."

Savage/Fogarty official Julien G. Redele, said the company hopes to rent out much of its office space to major corporations.

The project, to be located between the Ramada Inn and the Potomac, is the latest in a series which have caused one of the sharpest increases in building permits in the country. Alexandria ranked fourth in 1983, out of 200 cities surveyed by Dun & Bradstreet, with a 176.2 percent increase in permits. CAPTION: Picture, Model of four-building, $90-million office and retail complex planned for Alexandria waterfront was unveiled yesterday; Map, Site of Transpotomac Canal Center. By Dave Cook--The Washington Post