I am personally a huge fan of retrofitting existing structures to preserve architectural character and the textures of building materials such as heavy timbers and old brick. I also think that it is common sense that you should not tear down a perfectly good old building to build a new one the exact same size, that would just be wasteful.
However in most cities throughout the United States there are not really that many historic structures. We are a very young country and built environment. The west coast cities for example have only grown up over the last century with most of the growth was within the last 50 years. Unfortunately most of the growth over the last 50 years was based on land intensive car culture and disposable use culture. Anything built before these American cultural phases were the established, and still maintains it’s original integrity should be considered for historic preservation. Most everything else was not built to last and has very little architectural appeal, as they were just boxes built as cheaply and quickly as possible.
In context of Seattle, of course Capital Hill, etc have buildings that need to be preserved, but these buildings are in thriving neighborhoods with pre-WWII history. Liz Dunn probably doesn’t spend much time along Aurora or Rainier Ave. I do, not because I work on the street corner, but because I want to figure out how to repair the damage done over the last 50 years by irresponsible American cultural phases, also I couldn’t afford to buy a house on Capital Hill. I don’t see small infill or retrofit projects as a solution with the strength to fix a bigger picture problem, however they work in small scale areas like Columbia City. But Aurora and Rainier are big mistakes that will need a considerable amount of erasing. I just hope that the “correct” answers fill in the space of the previous mistakes.