Jane Jacobs liked protecting old buildings because of a confused piece of economic reasoning. She thought that preserving older, shorter structures would somehow keep prices affordable for budding entrepreneurs. That’s not how supply and demand works. Preserving an older one-story building instead of replacing it with a forty-story building does not preserve affordability. Indeed. opposing new building is the surest way to make a popular area unaffordable. An increase in the supply of houses, or anything else, almost always drives prices down, while restricting the supply of real estate keeps prices high.
The relationship between housing supply and affordability isn’t just a matter of economic theory. There is a great deal of evidence linking the supply of space with the cost of real estate. Simply put, the places that are expensive don't build a lot, and the places that build a lot aren't expensive. Several papers have shown that new construction is lower and prices are higher in places that restrict building. One of the cleverest papers in this genre uses natural barriers to building, such as the hilliness of an area, and shows that places with tough topography have less new construction and higher prices.
Perhaps a new forty-story building won't itself house any quirky, less profitable firms, but by providing new space, the building will ease pressure on the rest of the city's real estate. Price increases in gentrifying older areas will be muted because of new construction. Growth, not height restrictions and a fixed building stock, keeps space affordable and ensures that poorer people and less profitable firms can stay, which helps thriving cities remain successful and diverse. Height restrictions do increase light, and preservation does protect history, but we shouldn't pretend that these benefits come without a price.
My position always: build lots, build up, and concentrate humans. If a city is not doing this, then it is not being true to itself. Also, if an old building gets in the of this logic, the logic of a city (concentrated living), do not be sentimental. A building is just a building. Your memory of a building is just your memory of a building. Get rid of it (memory and building) for the greater good. The more preserved buildings there are in a neighborhood, the more expensive it becomes. And in America, the more expensive a neighborhood becomes means only one thing: the whiter it becomes.
Recall the documentary Battle for Brooklyn. It was middle-class whites, and not working-class blacks, who wanted to preserve old buildings and stop the development of a basketball stadium. This business of preserving stuff means little to working-class people. They do not have the luxury to be sentimental.
My last point: King Street Station should have been leveled and something new and better replaced it. Every time I see that building, my hate of it increases. All I see is a job-killing preservation of a cheap imitation of Venetian renaissance architecture. That's all there is to the King Street Station's stubborn existence.