Editor's Note: This article was first published in June, 2011. As Peachtree Corners moves closer to cityhood, we thought it appropriate to run again.
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!
Are you a long-time resident of Peachtree Corners with a story to tell? We'd love to hear from you.