Peter Faneuil and Josiah Quincy would be proud: 235 years historic meeting hall and 151 years after Quincy Market was built, Faneuil Hall Marketplace has once again become the vibrant center of downtown life.

In the spirit of the old mercantile masters whose prosperity earned Boston the nickname The Hub (of the Universe), contemporary merchants on the site are setting sales records that have become the envy of city planners and shopping center developers around the country. In the first year of operation, just completed, sales averaged almost $300 annually per square foot of retail space. This is roughly three times the national average.

The $30 million urgan mall was designed by Benjamin Thompson and Associates of Cambridge and is being developed by the Rouse Co. of Columbia, Md. It consists of three buildings, two of which are already occupied by some 116 pushcarts, boutiques and restaurants, selling everything from teddy bears to Oriental antiques and live lobsters. Gross sales for vendors of yogurt and Irish walking hats have reached as much as $2,000 per square foot on an annual basis, according to Rouse's general manager, James B. McLean.

By comparison, other Rouser central city shopping malls in Montreal and Philadelphia gross only about $125; Les Champs at Watergate, with its high priced boutiques, does about $300.

McLean is quick to credit the Boston mall's unique success to nearby Faneuil Hall, whose shops are being restored by another developer. Located amid Boston's waterfront, the financialdistrict, the Italian North End, and the new Government Center, stately Faneuil Hall has had butcher shops and vegetable stalls on its lower level since the 18th century. Quincy, North and South Markets, which form the Rouse development, were built as warehouses and also accomodated tradesmen outside under awnings.

But as Boston's post-war population declined, so did the area. Its main attraction for visitors, beside Faneuil Hall itself and its proximity to bawdy Scollay Square, was historic Durgin park restaurant, known for its checked tablecloths and mammoth steaks and strawberry shortcakes.

The marketplace narrowly missed being urban renewed right out of existence during the late 1950s and early 1960s. But in 1964 the city of Boston acquired the buildings and restored their facades. Rouse was designated developer in 1973 and given a 99-year lease.

Skeptical Boston banks declined to provide financing until Chase Manhattan was persuaded to take a gamble. Quincy Market opened in August, 1976, South Market this year, and North Market is scheduled to open next August. Together they contain 225,000 square of retail space for 200 tenants and 150,000 square feet of office space.

While Faneuil Hall has always been a tourist attraction, a Rouse marketing study shows that only 15 per cent of the visitors to the marketplace are tourists, that two thirds come from home or work. The large number arriving on foot (26 per cent) and the peak shopping hours, 12 to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m., indicate the marketplace is popular with office workers.

Much of Quincy Market is devoted to takeout foods, restaurants, and free eating areas. In addition, noontime fashion shows, musical events and other happenings such as a movie filming draw crowds.

Weekends are also crowded as restaurants and bars stay open until 2 a.m. Shops, which remain open until 9 p.m., feature expensive imports, trendy clothes, genuine handicrafts. In short, "nothing you can find in department stores, and nothing tacky or schlocky - no tee shirts or junk jewelry," said Tina Riviere, who controls selecion of products for the Bull market section, where the pushcarts are located.

The pushcarts are rented for $100 a week, or $300 a month. This system was designed to aid fledgling or seasonal vendors, to push out anyone whose merchandise does not sell well, and to elevate to permanent tenant status those who succeed.Ten of the original pushcart vendors have moved up to permanent space (although they retain the right to a pushcart for several months a year if they wish), and now pay rents ranging between $4 and $75 a square foot, with a $10 average.

Of the 28 pushcart vendors who are still active, some now make up to $900 on a good day. Recently Rouse decided to alter their rental agreements to the greater of $100 or 10 per cent of sales in excess of $750 a week, a move that will bring Rouse $130,000 next year in pushcart revenues.

Last year permanent tenants in Quincy Market paid Rouse $1 million in rent. Total sales amounted to $26.7 million. McLean said next year's projections are for a 10 to 15 per cent increase in the $300 per square foot average. Merchants in the new South Market - sellers of clothes, books, utensils, antiques - are expected to generate $225 per square foot this year, adding another $1 million to Rouse's coffers.

Retail occupancy is 100 per cent there have been no business failures yet.Offices space in South Market is 48 per cent occupied, 60 per cent pledged.

Last year the state of Massachusetts collected $2 million in meals and sales taxes from the marketplace. The city of Boston, entitled to 25 per cent of the billed rents, received only about $250,000. However, McLean noted, the mall must provide its own trash and security services. An off-side garage will be constructed next year to increase the few existing spaces.

Critics of Faneuil Hall Marketplace contend it is a playground for the rich and young: best-selling items are in the $5 to $30 range. The Rouse study shows the average age of shoppers is 37, that nearly half are in the $20,000 and up income bracket. More than half come by auto and spend an average of 24 minutes en route, an indication there are many suburbanites.

The crowds are overwhelmingly white although Boston has a sizeable black population. For, in a market where ethnic foods and products abound, there seems little identifiably black American.

The rejuvenation of Faneuil Hall Marketplace has apparently not drawn customers away from the pushcarts and mom-and-pop groceries of adjacent Little Italy. prices remain cheaper in the old neighborhood; moreover, its patrons are not so attracted by the exotic and natural foods the marketplace features along with traditional produce.

It is too early to tell whether the clothing and houselhold items offered by the amll will adversely affect business in nearby, somewhat staid Filenne's and Jordan Marsh, the Macy's and Gimbel's of Boston. Jordan's has recently complete a brand new downtown store.

The success of Faneuil Hall marketplace in Boston has smoothed the way for the Rouse Co. to develop a similar, $15 million complex in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Though Baltimore's waterfront has no monuments like Faneuil Hall, the city has recently tried to create an historic atmosphere by anchoring a replica of an old sailing ship there.

Rouse 150,000 square feet project has been opposed by some community and business groups as a commercial encroachment on land designated for public use. Last week the city housing commissioner delayed a decision on whether to grant Rouse exclusive rights to the development. The council is expected to act on the plan within two or three months.