THE PRESERVATIONIST group known as "Don't Tear It Down" has fought the good fight to keep the Olive T. Carr building company from tearing down the five Beaux Arts bay fronts, which are all that have not been razed of the development area at 15th and G Streets NW where Mr. Carr wishes to put up a $60 million project. The group has, moreover, shown a responsible appreciation of the need to add stores and jobs to the downtown area. But in two crucial categories the D.C. Office of Planning has not been able to meet the terms the developer believes to be necessary. Only potential sources -- not guarantees -- of $1.25 million in compensation for preserving the facades have been located. And though a height increase has been arranged for the part of the new building behind the facades, permission has not been arranged for an increase for the entire project, which Mr. Carr now says he needs.

The sight of those handsome remnants of another time would undoubtedly give years of pleasure and instruction to passersby if the facades were to be retained. Yet the developer has actively sought the cooperation of the preservationists and the city, and he has waited a year and a half to start building. If agreement still has not been reached, then it becomes increasingly difficult to ask him to wait much longer. That his compensation would come from public funds is also troubling. There is a value to preserving the city's economic future. The differnece goes to the heart of what people want of a city. If a good-faith effort shows that both values cannot be served, it is not destructive to sacrifice the past for those living in the city now and in years to come.