Mayor Barry has come forward with a rescue plan for the area around 14th and U that offers real hope for a revival.

The proposal calls for transferring the long- planned expansion of municipal offices from the Judiciary Square area--where rising real estate prices had put the project's future in doubt--to a site on the northwest corner of the intersection of 14th and U, already partly owned by the city's urban renewal agency. The new location would mean that municipal agencies would be less concentrated than now, but if all goes as planned the benefits to the city's economic development should outweigh any inconvenience to municipal workers and clients.

The key to success will be the city's ability to attract private business into the same area. Residential rehabilitation has already been extended from the Dupont and Logan circle areas to within striking distance, but commercial development has been understandably slow to follow. A municipal center should be located in an area that is safe for city workers and for the many people who do business with them.

Plans for the new center are still being developed, but D.C. planning director James O. Gibson reports that the local government is thinking hard about how to make the center fit into the area and how to support its development. Agencies will be selected for relocation with an eye to a convenient combination of services and local parking and transportation. A good start for private development will be provided by including commercial space within the center itself. Near-by buildings could also be rehabilitated at relatively low cost into restaurants and shops.

Federal approval of three applications for joint public-private Urban Development Action Grant projects would do much to aid the area's growth. So would agreement among Metro planners, to speed the completion of the subway stop planned for the intersection. Current plans call for completion as late as 1990, an obvious impediment to substantial private-sector investment in the area. Beyond that, the mayor will need to do everything possible to persuade private developers that they should join the city in cleaning up the most centrally located eyesore in the nation's capital.