Fairfax County will announce plans next week for a $27.8 million "South County" government center on Route 1 near Fort Belvoir.

Employees from seven county offices would be consolidated into a new, five-story office building housing social service programs and several other county functions.

If approved by the Board of Supervisors early next year, the 135,000-square-foot office building would be built by Madison Development Partners, a private company, and leased to the county for $17 a square foot. The county would be able to buy the building for $1 after 30 years.

The South County Center, as it would be called, would be about one-tenth the size of the county's main government center outside Fairfax City. It would be located on a vacant, 8.75-acre piece of land on Route 1 just north of Buckman Road and northeast of Fort Belvoir. In exchange, Madison would be granted permission to build another office building for private use at a former school site also located along Route 1.

County officials said it is not certain what company might occupy the private office building. But officials at Metrocall Inc., a nationwide paging company, have expressed interest in moving from their aging office buildings which also are located on Route 1.

County officials hailed the agreement as the most important step yet toward revitalizing the Route 1 corridor, which still has aging shopping centers and low-end development despite years of efforts to spruce up its image.

"Our interest here is to provide a little bit of encouragement for what has already begun: reinvestment along a number of sections of the road," said Fairfax County Executive Robert J. O'Neill Jr. "If people start to see new investments being made, especially those of fairly significant size, others will start to follow."

O'Neill said Madison has also agreed to make road improvements and to donate money to the county fund that removes blighted buildings from the corridor.

County officials say the new center would be far more convenient for area residents who need county services currently scattered among several buildings along the Route 1 corridor. The county leases 86,000 square feet of office space in the vicinity.

And officials said the government would save money in the long run by consolidating functions at one building in much the same way that other county functions were centralized when the county's main government center was built in 1992.

Eight years ago, county officials came under intense criticism when the glass, marble and mahogany government center opened during a severe economic recession. Critics said the county had wasted money and dubbed the building "Taj Mahal."

Now, the economy is booming again, and O'Neill said he didn't believe the new government center will be as fancy as the main one.

"I don't think that's what it's intended to be," O'Neill said. "It's intended to be a functional building."

Officials said the new government center would be larger than needed to house the more than 300 employees who serve residents of the area. The extra space could be used for other functions later--such as courtroom space, a tax office, a teen center at night or a senior center during the day.

If the supervisors agree Monday to schedule a hearing, public comment and a final vote on the project could come in early January.