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Paul Duke's Peachtree Corners

A look back on the founding of the community -- and a look ahead.

I've lived in Peachtree Corners for over 10 years.  I've embraced this community like it's my hometown.  I plan to raise my children in the lovely neighborhood where we live, and send them to the award-winning elementary, middle and high school that are all within walking and biking distance.

So, when I noticed that the Peachtree Corners gateway monument sign, which is constructed on the acreage at the “split,” where Peachtree Parkway veers off from northbound Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, welcomes everyone to our community with the words "Peachtree Corners and the Paul Duke Parkway," I was more than a tad embarrassed to admit that I have absolutely NO idea who the heck this Paul Duke guy is.

If there is already a road (141) named after him and a monument that features his name, he must be pretty important to Peachtree Corners, right?

A little research reveals that Mr. Duke is the founder and visionary of Peachtree Corners.  Nearly 40 years ago, the area in western Gwinnett County, also known then as Peachtree Corners, was just acres and acres of rural undeveloped land with no power or telephone lines and no sewer system.

Mr. Duke owned the land and envisioned a planned community where people could live, work, and play with a high quality of life.  He also wanted a campus of low-rise buildings that would house low-pollution, high technology industries (now known as Technology Park). 

The vision was decades ahead of its time.  Thankfully, Mr. Duke held two engineering degrees (mechanical and industrial) from Georgia Tech, so he possessed the technical knowledge for his vision to come to fruition. The GT alumni connections were likely helpful as well when he needed investment assistance.

Also, he was an All-American center under legendary Tech football coach Bobby Dodd and played professionally for a year with the now-defunct New York Yankees football club, an All-American Football Conference team.  Sports, his wife said, gave him the drive, self-confidence and fortitude to push ahead in business.

After cultivating a career in real estate development, in the late '60s, Duke, who was known among friends and colleagues for his determination,  tenacity, drive, in addition to his good humor, began work on his vision.

He convinced top developers from throughout the country to work within a very strict set of covenants and restrictions to establish and control the quality and type of growth in the area.  His focus always remained upon creating a balance between living, working, and playing environments.

In 1967, Peachtree Corners, Inc. and Technology Park Atlanta, Inc. were “born.”

Duke said, “The real key to the success of the entire Peachtree Corners concept was the tremendous cooperation between the county, the state, the business community, and the public in general.”

Today it is a prosperous model community of homes, schools, parks and businesses.

In 1999 Paul Duke was honored when the section of State Route 141 through Peachtree Corners, from Jimmy Carter Boulevard to the Gwinnett-Fulton County line, was designated as the “Paul Duke Parkway.”  And in 2008, just a year before his death, the welcome to Peachtree Corners sign was erected.

Fascinating.  I'm no history buff, but I found the beginnings of our community utterly intriguing.  Here's a guy, who over four decades ago, envisioned and created a sustainable community; a place where we can, quite literally, live, work AND play.

I'm in love with the fact that Peachtree Corners, the place where my family chose to put down roots, was founded and built on sustainable principles.  And, although this foundation was thoughtfully laid out decades ago, as Peachtree Corners grows and is on the precipice of becoming a city, it is our responsibility to nurture Mr. Duke's vision of a sustainable community.

  • It is our responsibility to make our area a healthy, safe, clean (and GREEN) place to live.
  • It is our responsibility to support local businesses so our local economy is strong.
  • It is our responsibility to secure our dwindling green spaces so we have vibrant places to play, grow, breathe...live.

So, whenever I drive north on 141 into Peachtree Corners, I will be reminded of our communities' founding principles of sustainability and beam with pride to call the Corners my home. Cheers to Paul Duke!

Lori Howard June 07, 2011 at 10:56 AM
After residing in Dunwoody for the first three years of our marriage, my husband, Bob, and I happily moved to Peachtree Corners in 1984 buying our second home for our growing family in Spalding Corners subdivision. In 1992, we wanted to be within walking distance to Simpson Elementary when it opened for our youngest son, Scott, and built a new home, our third house, in Riverfield subdivision where we resided from 1992-1999. We moved to our River Valley estates home on Pro Drive in 1999 in order to create a handicapped accessible home for our oldest son, Robbie. In 2006, with Robbie settled in a UCP group home and Scott off to college, Bob and I searched within a 30 mile radius for the perfect downsized home as we approach retirement. After an exhaustive search we found we just could not leave lovely Peachtree Corners and have happily resided in a Forest Hills subdivision cluster home for the last five years! We are looking forward to our community becoming a city! Lori Howard
Robert J. Nebel June 07, 2011 at 11:27 AM
WWPD-What Would Paul Do? Would Paul want cityhoood, light rail, trolleys, natural gas refueling stations, charter schools, more hotels, more businesses, a privatized Briscoe Field -- all of the above or none of the above? It will be interesting to see how this area will move forward as it grows. Right now, it's certainly a place to be proud of as it becomes stronger.
BJ Van Gundy June 07, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Thanks for writing this tribute to Mr. Duke. I'm proud to have called him a mentor/sponsor/friend. He is the reason I went to Georgia Tech in 1980 as he personally took me to the campus and introduced me to Dean Dull. His love for the school wasn't only demonstrated by his financial contributions but it came out in his voice as he showed me around. I came to know Mr. Duke when my father, Jerry Van Gundy, joined Mr. Duke's Peachtree Corners, Inc. in 1971 and became Paul's "Director of Development". With the economic downturn of 1975, my father left PCI and moved the family to Lakeland, FL to open a Dairy Queen as the family business. But as a testiment to Mr. Duke's dedication to his vision of Peachtree Corners, Mr. Duke bounced back and my Father rejoined PCI in 1977. Because Mr. Duke inspired such dedication to his vision by others, my father drove to Peachtree Corners every Sunday afternoon (~500 miles) and returned to Lakeland every Friday afternoon, 3 weeks a month, until 1985 when he sold the DQ and moved my mother back up to Peachtree Corners (he was waiting for all of us kids to get out of High School). This fall I will have kids in Norcross, Pinckneyville, Simpson and a fourth in Sunshine House (Simpson next year). Peachtree Corners has been a blessing to my family and I appreciate the fact that Mr. Duke continues to get praised for his visionary success. While Lakeland is where I'm from... Peachtree Corners has been and will always be my HOME.
Byron June 07, 2011 at 05:24 PM
I was just agreeing with an old Scouting friend yesterday, that this is the best place we had ever been. My wife, Carol agrees. This has been a great place to raise our two children, sice we moved here in 1994. My Scouting friend and I were trying to figure out why we needed to become a city. Where is the abuse or tyranny of the county that we must be trying to avoid? I have been trying to get a feel for how the community feels about becoming a city, so I have been approaching firnd and stranger as I walk each day. I have asked well over a 100 people trying to ask at least 3 people each day. I have only found one person who will vote yes on Nov. 1. There is no doubt in my mind that UPCCA will deliver its followers to the polls, but there is a strong, quiet anger toward the idea. Mostly I heard the attitude of why in times when we all want less government, less spending, less taxes and regulation are we even thinking of adding this new layer of government in such a traditionally conservative thinking area. Turnout will be everything, needless to say. The idea was voted down in 2005. I have never seen any petitions to get the legistlation stated to begin with. There has never been any survey or referendum that supported the idea. Why are voting on this?
Robin Montri June 08, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Thanks for your comments; very interesting (your connection w/ Mr. Duke)! I enjoyed researching & writing the article as well. Glad you enjoyed reading it!
Ruth Strickland June 10, 2011 at 03:35 PM
I worked with Paul Duke for many years starting in the fall of 1967. May I say, it is wonderful to see him remembered here. I was especially pleased to see the post by BJ Van Gundy. He was someone Paul Duke took a special interest in; and I remember when he started his college career at Georgia Tech. Robert, I have answered your question. There was too much information to share here as a comment. I hope you will check out my response in the opinion section of the Patch. I look forward to hearing more Peachtree Corners stories and hope others will continue to share their memories here.

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