Mary Duke Biddle project elicits unfavorable response from Forest Hills residents

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mary duke biddle
The Mary Duke Biddle House (pictured above) will undergo extensive renovations as part of TND’s housing project. (http://wikipedia.org)

Traditional Neighborhood Development Partners’ housing project on the Mary Duke Biddle Estate, which calls for the construction of 57 new homes, was strongly opposed by Forest Hills residents who asserted that the development will destroy their neighborhood “identity.”

Speaking to more than 200 homeowners from Forest Hills and the adjacent Long Meadow neighborhood at Morehead Montessori Magnet Elementary School on Nov. 6, TND founder Bob Chapman explained New Urbanism and how the Mary Duke Biddle housing is more beneficial than traditional designs.

Chapman, who has studied and worked with New Urbanism pioneer Andres Duany, said that supporters of the New Urbanism movement believe that “the space between the buildings is more important than the space inside the building; that the important thing is place making, the important thing is creating communities.”

He also clarified the project’s higher density concept, saying it is meant to encourage walking, to open more space on the property, and to save more trees than tract-style development. Homes will be built on only eight to nine acres out of the estate’s total area of 12.5 acres. Residents, however, prefer the project to follow the suburban style embodied by existing neighborhood homes.

“I’m afraid this plan is forcing something on us that doesn’t fit our neighborhood,” said Tom Wiley whose Forest Hills Blvd. property sits next to the project site.

Meanwhile, Jason Russell, who resides at the corner of Bivins and Kent streets, took offense at Chapman repetitively encouraging the audience to research New Urbanism projects completed in other cities. “This is how it’s done here. This is how it’s done there. We’re not Atlanta, we’re Durham,” he said citing the native-state of the project’s home builder, Philip Clark Custom Builders.

TND plans to preserve the Mary Duke Biddle House through extensive renovations. The firm, however, has yet to decide what purpose the overhauled house will serve.

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