It took more than three years to forge the public-private partnership necessary to move the project forward, but yesterday Fairfax County officials got out their shovels and broke ground on a new assisted-living center that will expand the area's housing options for moderate-income seniors.

The Little River Glen Assisted Living Center, to be built on Olley Lane adjacent to the existing Little River Glen Independent Living Center, will join a few other communities in Fairfax reserved for middle-income seniors who need help with daily activities.

"If you have a lot of money, you can go anywhere you want" as a senior, said Sharron Dreyer, director of senior housing and services for the county's Department of Housing and Community Development.

"At the other end of the spectrum, for folks whose income is below $1,000, the state and county have programs that pay for assisted living. It's the people in the middle who are stuck. This is an effort to address that gap," Dreyer said.

Fairfax Supervisor Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock), whose district includes the new complex, echoed that sentiment. "This is a growing need in Fairfax County," Bulova said. "This is our future."

Included in the groundbreaking, which was well attended by seniors, were plans for the new Little River Glen Adult Day Care Center, which will serve 50 seniors at a time and be operated by the Fairfax County Health Department. It will be built next to the assisted-living complex.

Officials credit the projects to a unique collaborative effort among Inova Health System and Sunrise Assisted Living Foundation -- which together have contributed more than $500,000 to finance construction -- and the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

The land for the new facilities has been leased to the community by the county, and a portion of the rent will help subsidize residents of the assisted-living facility.

Both facilities are expected to open in the third quarter of next year.

"There's a crying need for affordable senior housing in Fairfax County," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. Hanley (D), who attended yesterday's event. "The government can't do everything by itself. . . . We need partnerships to address these problems."

The assisted-living residence will have units for 60 residents and be managed by Sunrise Assisted Living, which currently operates 23 assisted-living residences in the Washington area. The community will offer meals, housekeeping, laundry, medication reminders and activities.

Officials with Sunrise said no decisions have been made about how much it will cost to live in the new complex or what the criteria for residence will be.

"This is a complex that will provide quality of life for a lot of people," said Paul Klaassen, founder, chairman and chief executive of Sunrise. "I'm sure there will be a really strong demand."