Several Alexandria landowners are trying to convince the National Science Foundation -- with its 2,000 employees and $7 billion annual budget -- to pack its bags and move out of Arlington County.

Three sites in Alexandria are among an estimated dozen locations across Northern Virginia competing to become the science foundation's new home. The foundation's lease in Ballston expires next year and it is soliciting competitive bids from other landowners in hopes of securing cheaper facilities.

"Alexandria is very interested in becoming the new home of NSF," said Kerry Donley, the city's vice mayor. "We intend to work with any Alexandria finalists to help put a competitive project together."

The science foundation needs between 575,000 and 690,000 square feet of office space in a single building or a pair of interconnected towers. It's looking for a 15-year lease at a Northern Virginia location within one-half mile of a Metrorail station, including the four stations along Metro's still-incomplete Silver Line.

Alexandria Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks said at least three locations along Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria -- Victory Center, Hoffman Town Center and Carlyle Plaza -- meet the requirements.

Arlington's economic development officials declined to discuss Alexandria's play for a major county employer. But Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., expects the federal agency, which promotes science and engineering through research programs and education projects, to remain in Arlington, his spokeswoman said.

"We've been working [to keep it in Arlington] for over 2 years now," Ann Hughes said. "It has a great home in Arlington and it should stay there."

Fairfax County also may be competing for the science foundation, though officials there were unable to comment.

Science foundation officials said the possible move is "up in the air," but declined to discuss it. The General Services Administration, which manages real estate for the federal government, also declined comment.

Property owners interested in winning over the science foundation are expected to have to file proposals with the GSA in early September, Jinks said.