This summer, construction will start in Reston on a new $5 million Fairfax County government center and $6 million, 240-bed senior citizen nursing and intermediate care residence.

A town center with midrise office buildings, hotels, art museums and movie theaters also is planned.

The senior citizen complex will be owned and operated by the nonprofit Fairfax Hospital Association (FHA) and eventually will support a medical mall, a medical office building, a recreation center, a comprehensive alcohol and drug treatment center and a small residential retirement community. The Reston Regional Library will open there this spring; a police substation and FHA's ACCESS medical emergency center already operate on the site.

Janet Howell, president of the Reston Community Association, a volunteer advisory group, said the medical facility is an important step toward Reston's becoming a self-contained community.

"You'll be able to come here at any stage in life and move from one kind of housing to another as your needs change," she said. "Reston will be opened for everybody to live and work."

The 50-acre government/medical complex will be located in western Reston on the south side of Baron Cameron Avenue, between Reston Avenue and Town Center Parkway. Fairfax County traded the land to the FHA in exchange for a $5 million, 60,000-square-foot office building that would house the county's Department of Manpower Services, Office for Children, North County Juvenile Court, alcohol and drug programs, recreation services, the Northwest Center for Community Mental Health and the departments of health and social services.

County officials said they will pay the FHA a nominal rental fee that will save the county at least $1 million per year.

But some Restonians say their community, whose population of 40,000 is expected to climb to 65,000 in two to three years, was ready for growth 10 years ago.

Patricia Naboa, president of the Reston Board of Commerce, a private organization of local business leaders who promote Reston to outside communities, said state and county officials should have recognized Reston's economic potential long ago.

"We really felt there was a need for this medical facility 10 years ago when the Health Systems Agency of Virginia recommended the Mount Vernon area for a hospital Mount Vernon Hospital instead of us," Naboa said. "We felt it was a mistake."

The Health Systems Agency of Virginia recommends certificates of need for new hospitals to the state health commissioner. These certificates must be issued by the health commissioner before any new hospital facility can be built.

Naboa said Reston plays a critical role in contributing to the healthy economic base of Fairfax County and that "we're starting to look more legitimate as an entity" to county leaders.

Construction for Phase II of the FHA facility will not start until the government center and nursing and intermediate care centers are completed, said Donald L. Harris, FHA senior vice president. Harris said it will take about one year to finish the project's first phase and about three years to complete the complex.

According to FHA's development plan, the complex ultimately will have two 120-bed intermediate homes for adults, a 500-unit retirement center and a medical mall/medical office building. Tenants of the five-story, 50,000-square-foot medical office building will include a neurologist, an ophthalmologist, a dentist and an insurance and claims forms assistant, among others.

There will be a recreational activity center in the medical mall, with an indoor shuffle board court, a concert area, a pool table and video games.

Although there already are two senior citizen residences in Reston, Supervisor Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville District) said "there is no question in my mind" that the area can support a full-service senior citizen center, such as the FHA's.

Dr. John A. Scherzer, president of the Fellowship Square Foundation, which owns and operates Reston's two senior citizens homes, said there is plenty of room in Reston for additional nursing and residential facilities.