Arlington's Clarendon neighborhood would get a new upscale complex of 18 shops and restaurants, office space, apartments and town houses under a development plan approved unanimously yesterday by the County Board.

Already known for its ethnic restaurants and easy access to Metrorail, the neighborhood has lost a number of large chain stores in the decades since it was Arlington's downtown and has long lacked a central gathering place.

Clarendon Centre, as the planned complex is called, would cover more than two city blocks and feature a long U-shaped avenue off Clarendon Boulevard with a band shell, a fountain and a small playground in its central green space.

As envisioned by county planners and the developer, the 10-acre complex would help solidify Clarendon as one of the county's signature neighborhoods.

A one-acre park would anchor the southern end of the complex, which is owned and would be developed by Chicago-based McCaffery Interests. The same company built Georgetown Center and is redeveloping Mazza Gallerie, both in the District. Clarendon Centre would touch Clarendon and Wilson boulevards and would sit between the Courthouse and Clarendon Metro stops.

"Our approval of this project today is the realization of a vision that dates back to 1981," said board Chairman Paul F. Ferguson.

Yesterday's vote concludes six years of uncertainty about the site, which was home to a Sears parking lot and auto center until 1993. When Sears closed its doors after 50 years, the neighborhood--which had hosted not only Sears, but also Woolworth, Kann's and J.C. Penney--was ripe for major change. But proposals for both a Home Depot and a town house complex met with dissent from neighbors and were withdrawn.

At yesterday's public hearing, however, a dozen residents offered unqualified support for the $100 million project, and a few others gave it conditional support, expressing concern about cut-through traffic and related issues.

"I believe this project will bring an attractive focal point to Clarendon and will infuse the area with energy that is sure to spill over," said nearby resident Jennifer Greiner.

Greiner and others praised the developer for efforts to meet and compromise with residents and county staff. The project also is less dense than county regulations would permit.

Board members acknowledged the neighbors' traffic concerns and persuaded the developer to add $25,000 to the $75,000 the company initially offered for traffic calming, among other efforts.

Clarendon Centre, which is likely to be completed in 2002, would fill the area bordered by North 11th, North Danville and North Fillmore streets and Clarendon Boulevard, plus a strip along North Fillmore between Clarendon and Wilson.

The complex would include 87 town houses, 300 apartments, a five- and a six-story office building and more than 1,200 parking spaces, including 200 underground spaces for the neighboring Fresh Fields store, which is owned by McCaffery.