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Durham, North Carolina is a fast-growing city, and Forest Hills serves as a long sought-after area to live just a mile outside of the burgeoning downtown area. Nestled in the heart of Forest Hills, Pinecrest will be a beautiful, walkable neighborhood worthy of its historic setting.

Our Plan

Our aim is to create a community of the highest quality and to respect and enhance the value, quality of life and classic architectural character of Forest Hills. We are drawing inspiration from the Pinecrest property itself, including the sprawling greenery and tree canopy, while seeking to create a remarkable community concept with high quality homes that seamlessly complement nearby residences and communities.
Visit the FAQ section for additional details on our progress.

the concept

The images below are the concept boards of homes, gardens and greenspaces utilized while developing the Pinecrest community concept.

About the Property

A pillar of the Durham community, the late Duke University heiress and philanthropist Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans lived on the 15-acre Pinecrest estate for many years until her passing in 2012.

Mary’s son, James D.B.T. Semans, and his wife, Margaret Rich, inherited the property. Facing high property taxes and considerable expenses associated with maintaining the historic property and grounds, the Semans family made the difficult decision to sell the property. They deliberately launched an in-depth, two-year search to find the right developer who would honor the family’s legacy and maintain the property’s integrity.

The Semans family selected Phillip Clark Custom Builders based on our decades of experience building beautiful, classic homes and communities within intown neighborhoods and historic districts.

Support From The Durham Community

These testimonials speak to Phillip Clark Builders’ commitment to historical preservation, excellence in design and craftsmanship and support from the Durham, North Carolina, community.

“The Forest Hills neighborhood and Pinecrest are valued and important historic places in land use policies and decisions that affect or are important to Preservation Durham and our members. We have studied the issues, toured the property several times and have met with the developers. We’ve heard from neighbors who both support and oppose the development on various aspects of it. We are pleased that the development plan commits to preserving the historic structures and pays for it with an infill density of less than four units per acre.”

April Johnson, Executive Director, Preservation Durham

“Phillip Clark Builders is committed to quality. Quality site planning, architecture, materials and construction are paramount. I am pleased that Clark’s plan preserves the Pinecrest estate as a place.”

Arthur Rogers, Forest Hills Resident

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • A pillar of the Durham, North Carolina, community, the late Duke University heiress and philanthropist Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans spent much of her life promoting the arts and humanities through various philanthropic efforts in Durham. Semans lived on the 15-acre Pinecrest estate in the Forest Hills neighborhood for many years until her passing in 2012.

    Mary’s son, James D.B.T. Semans, and his wife, Margaret Rich, inherited the property. Facing high property taxes and considerable expenses associated with maintaining the historic property and grounds, the Semans family made the difficult decision to sell the property. They deliberately launched an in-depth, two-year search to find the right developer who would honor the family’s legacy and maintain property’s integrity.

    The Semans family selected Phillip Clark Custom Builders based on our decades of experience building beautiful, classic homes and communities within intown neighborhoods and historic districts.

  • We are proposing a walkable neighborhood that is worthy of its setting in Forest Hills and is respectful of the special legacy and heritage of the Semans property. We are drawing inspiration from the Pinecrest property itself, including the sprawling greenery and tree canopy, while seeking to create a remarkable community concept with high quality homes that seamlessly complement nearby residences and communities. In our proposal, we’ve also committed to investing in shared greenspaces and gardens that are accessible to all of Forest Hills.

  • Durham is a fast-growing city and Forest Hills serves as a long-sought after area to live just a mile outside of the burgeoning downtown area. Not only does our proposed development align with the City of Durham’s growth plan and the Semans family wishes, but other Durham organizations and community members support the project, as well. For example, Preservation Durham supports our plan to preserve the historic homes, and we will continue to work closely with them throughout the planning process.

    In a different scenario, with no changes to the property’s current RS-20 zoning, another developer could theoretically purchase the land, split it into 24 lots and build two homes per acre. They could either build all 24 homes or sell off lots one by one. In this case, the neighborhood would not have input on the homes that are built on this land. Alternatively, a developer could theoretically choose to clear cut the property and keep the space entirely private.

  • We have held more than 15 meetings with neighborhood groups and the larger community to discuss every aspect of the project. In these meetings, we actively listened to feedback and concerns and made changes to our site plan as conversations evolved. With full transparency, we have also provided regular updates to the neighborhood via letters and listservs.

    A group of neighborhood residents have expressed five key areas of concern: housing density, garage location, perimeter buffer, traffic and home style (single-family attached vs. detached homes). We have continued to hone the site plans and make modifications to address these five areas of concerns.

    • Housing Density: Our original plan from the fall of 2017 proposed 59 units, including the two flats in the historical home. In the spring of 2018, we reduced the density of the site plan to 48 units, and in the summer of 2018, we further reduced the density of the site plan to 40 units. Our aim is to create a community of the highest quality and to respect and enhance the value, quality of life and architectural character of Forest Hills. We very much appreciate and have applied the community feedback received, but will not compromise on architectural quality, detailing and materials necessary to achieve our vision. By committing to 40 units, it allows us to create elegant, classic homes that respect the existing homes of Forest Hills.
    • Garage location: Originally, the orientation of the homes on the perimeter of the property included some outward-facing garages. In the current plan, all garages face inward, avoiding numerous driveways and points of access along Kent Street and Westwood Drive.
    • Perimeter buffer: Some residents expressed interest in having the homes set back further from the road. Our current plan has increased the setbacks off the perimeter of the property. 
    • Traffic: We commissioned a professional traffic study that was completed in the spring of 2018. The results of this study were shared in neighborhood community meetings and concluded that the traffic resulting from our proposed development would be no more significant than if 24 homes were to be developed on the property by right. Additionally, the parking structures that we have designed aim to minimize visibility of vehicles. 
    • Home style: The vast majority of the development proposes attached, single-family homes. In order to have a village-type streetscape without wide public roads, Durham ordinances require a technical attachment be made between the homes. Our plan envisions these attachments as garden sheds, trellis parking spaces or similar structures. The large historic home on the property will be split into two flats. Preservation Durham supports our plan to preserve the historic nature of the homes on the property, and we will continue to work closely with them throughout the planning process.
  • The tree canopy is an integral part of the Forest Hills neighborhood and a prime reason why this property was so appealing to us. Like the residents of the neighborhood, we want to preserve the area and maintain as many trees as possible. While it is inevitable that trees will be removed to construct new homes, our current plan calls for an approximate $1,000,000 expenditure for the creation of shared greenspaces, tree replacement and garden development.

  • We will strictly follow all local and state storm water regulations. We are considering utilizing bio-retention ponds and/or underground detention.

  • Yes. Additionally, we plan to create a public trail through the meadow on the east side of the property. We aim to create amenities that are accessible to all of Forest Hills.

  • No, this will not be a gated community.

  • No, the Pinecrest development will be strictly residential.

  • Yes. We are requesting a zoning change from RS-20 to PDR 6.0.

  • If approved, our anticipated plan is to build out the community in phases over the course of 2-3 years. Work would be restricted to comply with city ordinances. We would under no circumstances allow work before 7 a.m. Additionally, we would discourage work on Saturdays and prohibit work on Sundays and all major holidays.

Contact Us

PHILLIP CLARK Custom Builders
3235 Roswell Road, Unit 400
Atlanta GA 30305

Tel: (404) 816-1116
Fax: (404) 816-2388
E-Mail: beau@phillipclarkbuilders.com

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