Thirty years ago, the Virginia Square shopping center in Arlington was a thriving regional commercial area with a department store, a supermarket and other shops.

But the development of shopping malls such as Tysons Corner slowed population growth in Arlington, and the disruption caused by the construction of Metro's Orange Line nearby sent the area into decline.

This month, almost all the stores in Virginia Square moved out, marking both the end of an era and a new start for the neighborhood.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which bought the nine-acre site last summer, plans to build an office and residential complex there. FDIC received county permission in January 1987 to build up to seven buildings.

Present plans call for the construction of just three buildings: an office building, a 350-unit apartment building where FDIC employees would live while taking training courses, and a new structure for the Giant Food store supermarket currently on the site, said Stanley J. Poling, director of accounting and corporate services for FDIC.

FDIC has agreed that the Giant will remain open during the construction, a boon to nearby residents and a relief to county officials who have worried in the past about redevelopment driving out neighborhood-serving supermarkets.

Construction is expected to start this summer and be finished in about three years, but it has not been decided which building will be built first, said Poling.