Boston Properties, which unsuccessfully sought to build a major office complex on a 167-acre tract along the Dulles Airport Access Road, has capitulated and sold the land to another developer.

Centennial Development Corp., one of Reston's largest commercial developers, said it has bought the parcel and plans to build a residential development.

The site, which is at the southeast corner of the Hunter Mill Road interchange of the airport road, was the subject of some of the most bitterly fought Fairfax County land-use battles in recent years when Boston Properties attempted to get the site's zoning for residential land use changed to permit development of more than a million square feet of office space.

Tom Hutchinson, vice president of Boston Properties, confirmed that the site is "under contract," but would neither confirm nor deny that Centennial is the purchaser. Neither Centennial nor Boston Properties would reveal the sales price.

Pete Scamardo, Centennial's president, said his company will bow to the wishes of residents along Hunter Mill Road in nearby Reston and abandon plans to develop the land commercially.

He said residential development "seems like a logical use of the land. We're not going to fight. The population there is ready to put this to bed. It has been a thorn in everybody's side. It will be strictly residential because of citizen opposition" to commercial development.

Centennial's preliminary plans call for construction of town houses and single-family detached units. County planning staff members said there still could be some problem with Centennial's plans, depending on how large a project the firm proposes.

Meanwhile, Centennial officials said they will meet with representatives of nearby civic associations to give them a voice in the final development plan.

Although prices have not been set, Centennial officals said the units probably will cost at least $150,000 and could go well over $300,000. They said they are designing homes that will provide "a good transition between the airport road corridor and existing housing."

During the past two years, opposition from residents -- especially the Hunter Mill Defense League -- beat back efforts by Boston Properties to have the county's land-use plan changed to permit development of the corporate office park and a limited amount of housing.

In December, Boston Properties again asked Fairfax to consider that plan during the 1986 annual comprehensive plan review.

Carlos Montenegro, a Centennial official, said he hoped his company's plan to develop the site residentially could be eased through what is known as an "out-of-turn amendment" to the plan. Such a move would have to be initiated by planning commission member John Thillmann in whose district the site lies.

William Keefe of the county's planning office said the changes might be made on the Boston Properties' request, which the planners still consider to be active even though the property is being sold. Portions of the site now are zoned R-1, one house per acre, and R-E, residential estate for large lots. Centennial plans to ask Fairfax to approve planned-development-housing zoning.

It would be Centennial's first move into the residential-development business. "We hope to have local builders construct the homes once we have developed roads and sites," Scamardo said.