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A Look Inside the UPCCA: United Peachtree Corners Civic Association



The UPCCA team. Photos courtesy of UPCCA.

You may have wondered what it was like to work for the United Peachtree Corners
Civic Association (UPCCA)
. We’ve spoken with Gay Shook and Debbie Mason to find out about how the organization works, what they do and what they’re looking forward to for the future of Peachtree Corners.

Longtime UPCCA member Gay Shook started out in the newspaper business. Her husband Ron worked for the New York Times for more than 30 years and retired as VP of his regional group.

From editor to chairman

When they moved to Peachtree Corners over 35 years ago, he noticed that Gwinnett County did not have its own newspaper. He saw a niche in the market and took a chance, starting the “The Weekly.” He even pulled some strings with contacts at the New York Times, who helped design “The Weekly’s” masthead. He then asked his wife, Gay, to be the editor, and they worked at the newspaper together.

The paper covered from Norcross to Duluth, turning out great news and talented journalists. Politicians even began to pay attention, Gay said. “We wrecked a few careers. Let’s just say, if your moral compass spins, I am going to know about it.”

When her husband fell ill in 1997, they had no choice but to consolidate to an online version. By this point, Gay had her pick of organizations to join, and she chose the UPCCA. She became the Chairman of the Peachtree Corners Improvement Project.

“Peachtree Parkway looks as good as it does now because of us,” she beamed. They should be proud. The parkway is clean and green with manicured roadsides and tree-lined streets. It doesn’t have any of the usual eyesores you would see on a major highway.

“Developers knew that if they wanted anything, they had to go through us,” Gay said. She remembers their reputation preceding them with community leaders.

UPCCA Cleanup

What you may not know is that the UPCCA actually got the help of Tech Park for the major cleanup project. They conducted a study and took aerial shots of the parkway to help calculate how much money it would take for mowing and garbage pickup. In the end, they came up with $1.41 per square foot as a goal for the cleanup project. The organization used that number to estimate how much money they would need to raise every year.

UPCCA decided to go with Piedmont Landscaping Company for the project because the President, Drew Watkins, was willing to go the extra mile. “There was an ugly pit next to the access road behind what is now Chicago Hot Dog,” Gay said. I asked him if there was anything he could do to make it nicer, and he made it happen.”

Securing the sign

But the greatest uphill battle that she remembers from her days in the UPCCA was the talisman to this beautiful city, the Peachtree Corners entrance sign. Originally, it was supposed to be positioned off the exit near what is now the Target shopping center. Gay had bigger plans, but that involved seeking special permission from the Georgia Highway Association.

The commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Russel McMurry — who you may know as the person in charge of fixing the infamous burned overpass in Atlanta — was working as a district engineer at the time when he gave them the go ahead for the sign.

Then it was just a matter of finding a way to secure funds for the sign, and it was Representative Tom Rice who handed Gay the answer. He notified the UPCCA about a special grant that the city could apply for, and the county would match the funds to reach their goal.

The city got the grant, but even with that, the funds for the sign fell short. It was Paul Duke himself who provided his last gift to the City of Peachtree Corners. The UPCCA decided to get creative and change the sign — including the words “Entering Paul Duke Parkway” — and the Duke family made up the difference for the iconic entranceway we see today.

“When you enter, you know you’re in Peachtree Corners, because it looks different than any other suburb of Atlanta,” Gay said, noting that all the group’s efforts were definitely worth it. “It just goes to show, you can make anything happen, all you need is the right person to help.”

The first lady gets involved

Gay said she believes that the community members of Peachtree Corners are what make this city so special. Members like Peachtree Corners developer and innovator Jim Cowart. “I saw him do things for people that nobody knew about. If someone had a baby, they would find a baby basket full of supplies on their doorstep a few days later,” Gay shared. “And I knew so many people like that, who were always doing things for other people silently.”

Other important people in UPCCA’s success story include the first lady of Peachtree Corners, Debbie Mason. Mason joined the UPCCA in 2007. Her husband, Mayor Mike Mason, was one of the founding members of the organization and eventually went on to be the president.

Mayor Mike Mason gives a safety speech.

When Debbie’s oldest son graduated college, Mike asked her to become a member. She took over as chairman of the Peachtree Parkway improvement project from Gay. “I was like Gay 2.0,” Debbie joked, “I treated the project with just as much love as her.”

The city eventually took over the highway improvement project and the UPCCA donated any leftover funds to the city. “I was glad to be rid of it,” Debbie remarked about the more than $25,000 worth of funds they procured over the years. “It definitely was a labor of love.”

UPCCA keeps it all together

So what have the members of the UPCCA been up to since achieving cityhood in 2010? “People always ask: what do we still need the UPCCA for, now that we’re a city?” Debbie said. She explained that, even though they don’t have any real pull in government office, the UPCCA acts as the liaison representing the people of Peachtree Corners to the county. In matters where the city and the county don’t always agree, Debbie knows the UPCCA will always side with the citizens. “We keep the community connected at a time when people are as disconnected as they’ve ever been,” she said.

And connected we are. The UPCCA now coordinates tons of city-wide meetings which are open to anyone. “We maintain a level of transparency with the city,” Debbie said. Those meetings include their annual C.O.P.S. meeting, which allows residents to keep an open line of communication with the Gwinnett Police Department and stay informed about what is going on in their community. It always has a huge turnout.

There is also the “Great American Cleanup” where Peachtree Corners compete for the award in “most pounds of trash picked up.” Not to mention the annual $1,000 scholarship the association gives to two resident students of the community. Despite the pandemic, Debbie is still planning the Peachtree Corners Festival, but it will likely be moved to later in the year than June.

This year, the UPCCA will also be bringing back the “Star Award Program” to recognize the unsung heroes of Peachtree Corners. Speaking of unsung heroes, Debbie was recently diagnosed with uterine cancer; even though she recognizes that it could be potentially problematic, she still plans on being involved in the UPCCA as much as possible.

“This will be the biggest challenge I have ever had to overcome. But I just have to try and listen to my body, and say no when I don’t have the energy,” Debbie said.

From the pandemic to the tumultuous election, Gay and Debbie are looking forward to seeing how the events of the last year will affect the future of Peachtree Corners. But one thing will always stay the same — UPCCA’s dedication to serving its community.

To stay up to date on all the UPCCA events or nominate your hero, visit UPCCA.gov and subscribe to their newsletter.

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Peachtree Corners Councilman’s Journey to Opening a Dog Park Haven



Peachtree Corners Dog Park by Louis Svehla

When Peachtree Corners City Councilman Alex Wright last had a dog, he was only a kid.

Young Alex was devastated when he died and did not want to get another dog because he did not want to endure that trauma again. 

As a result, his family has never had a dog, and even though the two youngest of his four children badgered him and his wife endlessly, they always said no. 

Then COVID-19 hit. The Wrights’ youngest son, Michael, was committed to convincing his parents to get a dog. He even did a PowerPoint presentation (with music) explaining why he absolutely needed a dog. 

Michael and Murphy courtesy of Councilman Wright

“I guess it was from being cooped up during Covid that my wife suggested maybe we should give in. Next thing I know we tell the kids we are going to get a dog,” Councilman Wright wrote in an email.

So, in June 2021, they got their first dog, Murphy, an Australian Labradoodle. 

“All of a sudden, we discover this whole dog subculture that we had not really paid attention to before.  All the things dogs liked to do, all the stuff you could buy them, all the people we met through walking the dog,” he explained. 

In February, Wright and his wife were at Avalon returning a purchase when they came upon a modest-sized dog park. Wright’s wife suggested having something like that at Town Green would be great. 

Dog Park Ribbon Cutting photos by George Hunter

“Later that day, I texted the City Manager [Brian Johnson] about the idea, and he really liked it.  At the time, the playground (the one that opened in August 2022) was under construction, and we were already discussing other ideas to create activation at the Town Center, so this fit right into that plan,” said Wright.

The assistant City Manager, Seth Yurman, was tasked with the nuts and bolts and worked with a contractor on location and design. 

“Can’t say enough about what a great job Seth did. We have definitely had some supply chain delays, which resulted in an opening maybe 9 to 12 months later than originally hoped for, but it is finally open,” he added.

Dog Park Ribbon Cutting photos by George Hunter

A couple more things are still left to do for the project, including installing a large sail cover over the stone entrance area. Construction of the Bone Bar is also on the agenda. This small bar will serve adult and non-adult beverages and likely…you guessed it? Treats for dogs. 

The new dog park is situated behind the CineBistro building near the Town Green. The Peachtree Corners Off-Leash Dog Park is approximately 9,000 square feet and is divided into sections for smaller and larger dogs, with natural and artificial turf areas.

Dog Park Ribbon Cutting photos by George Hunter

PTC Dog Park Rules

  • The dog park is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • The dog park is CLOSED for maintenance every Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • Use of the dog park is at your own risk.  You are responsible for your dog and any injuries or damage caused by your dog.
  • All children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • All dogs must wear a collar with a valid license and have current vaccinations required by law.
  • Please call 911 for all emergencies.
  • The small dog area is for dogs 30 pounds and under.  Dogs over 30 pounds must use the large dog area.
  • Dogs must stay on a leash until they are in the fenced-in areas of the dog park and must be off-leash while in the dog park.
  • Professional dog trainers may not use the dog park to conduct business.
  • No person shall bring more than three dogs at one time.
  • Please dispose of your dog’s waste in the receptacles provided. Remind others to do the same.
  • Dogs must always be under the control and supervision of their handler.
  • If your dog becomes aggressive, please leash the dog and exit the park immediately.
  • Gates must be closed after entrance and exit.
  • Dogs under six months old and female dogs in heat are not permitted.
  • Food (human and dog) and glass containers are not permitted, as are smoking, vaping and drug use.
  • Cats and other animals are not permitted.
  • Bikes, scooters, skateboards and motorized equipment are not permitted.
  • Violation of these rules may result in a ban from the dog park.

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Memorial Park Planned to Honor Memory of Late Peachtree Corners First Lady



To honor and remember Debbie Mason, the first and only first lady of Peachtree Corners, who passed away after a long battle with cancer, a memorial park is being built.
Debbie Mason with her Yorkie

To honor and remember Debbie Mason, the first and only first lady of Peachtree Corners, who passed away after a long battle with cancer, a memorial park is being built.

A Peachtree Corners Arts Council subcommittee was formed to plan, develop and execute the park. Debbie Mason Memorial Park committee members include Lynette Howard, Robyn Unger, Bob Ballagh, Dave Huffman, Gay Shook, Sarah Roberts and Pat Bruschini.

“Lynette Howard led us in some brainstorming and creative sessions about what the garden should look like,” said Bruschini. “We had pictures of her backyard. Some of us had been to her backyard. It took a couple of months until we got a handle and feel for what we wanted the garden to be and what we thought [Mason] would want.”

One unique feature will be a Yorkie statue, Mason’s favorite dog, perched on top of a coffee table-like boulder encircled by granite benches. The brochure for the fundraising campaign will feature a photo of Mason and her beloved pet.

After looking at a few possible locations, a tract of land near the city’s botanical garden was chosen.

“The area where the park is going had been semi-developed,” said Buschini. “If you’re standing on the sidewalk with your back to the new dog park or your back to Cinebistro, you’ll see a granite semi-circle wall and steps that come down from Peachtree Corners Circle. We are enhancing that area.”

Debbie Mason Memorial Garden Plan Pikes plan showing Phase 1 and Phase 2

Everyone involved wanted the park to be near Town Center and accessible to everyone. So, an offshoot of the botanical garden, a property owned by the Downtown Development Authority, made the most sense, Bruschini added.

The park will be connected to Town Center with one entrance off Peachtree Corners Circle across from Davini Court.

“We have a complete plot plan designed by a landscape architect from Pike Nursery. Jennifer Freeman, a Duluth mosaic artist, created a mosaic design of the city logo,” said Bruschini.

The Debbie Mason Memorial Garden will be the city’s first park. Although there are other parks within city limits, this is the only one that will be owned and maintained by the city. 

To improve its access, the city is working with the Solis Apartment Complex being built nearby.

The plan is to have an extensive sidewalk connecting to the park. Construction of the park is underway and plant material will go in this fall. There will be a ribbon cutting and dedication shortly after that. 

But for now, the committee wants everyone to know that it’s coming and contributions are welcome. Find the wish list for the Debbie Mason Memorial Garden at the end of this article.

The memorial is fitting because Mason really was Peachtree Corners, said Bruschini.

“She was a volunteer extraordinaire,” she said. I met her on the board of the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association, and she headed up the Peachtree Parkway Improvement Project for six years. That’s where she would contact all the businesses along 141 and ask them to make a contribution so that the median strip could be maintained.”

Mason also co-founded the beloved Peachtree Corners Festival alongside Dave Huffman.

Garden Site Construction

In 2008, there was a tour of homes in Peachtree Corners, and the funds raised went to solar lights to light up the sign going into Peachtree Corners. Mason was front and center with that.  But she always had time for family, Bruschini said.

“Her son Nick was in drama at Norcross High School, and she was very involved in that. And she worked with the taste of Norcross High School going back, I’ll say, 20 years maybe,” she said.

“She and Mike started the Fox Hill Homeowners Association and she worked with the Peachtree Corners Yes campaign and served on the board of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful as well as the City Arts Council and also the first City Green committee. This is fitting because she always wanted to make memories in Peachtree Corners,” she explained.

Garden Sponsorship Items

  • Mosaic Logo – $10,000
  • Mosaic River – (3) $5,000 each
  • Bronze Plaque – $3,000
  • Arbor – (3) $1,000 each
  • Japanese Maple – $800
  • Flowerpots full of color – (3) $500 each
  • Dogwoods (3) $500 each
  • Tea Olives – (6) $400 each
  • Yorkie Dog Statue – $300
  • Azalea/Hydrangeas (40) – $60 each

Garden Sponsorship Levels

  • $1000: Platinum
  • $500: Gold
  • $250: Silver
  • $100: Bronze
  • $50: Friends of the Garden

Ways to Donate
Checks are preferred and are payable to:
Peachtree Corners Arts, Inc. Attn: DMMC
PO Box 922469
Peachtree Corners, GA 30092

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Peachtree Corners’ Waterside Community Unveils Clubhouse and Amenities [+ PHOTOS]



Waterside Community's upgraded clubhouse

The Providence Group of Georgia, a Atlanta homebuilder and developer, and its joint venture partner East Jones Bridge River Holdings, LLC, has put a whole new spin on amenities in the community of Waterside.

Located in Peachtree Corners and situated along the shores of the Chattahoochee River, Waterside provides multiple housing options that promote inter-generational living for those looking for a age-in-place community.

The 7,100 square-foot community clubhouse has a health and fitness center including aerobics room, two massage rooms and spa. There is a kitchen on the terrace level as well as a catering kitchen, expansive indoor and outdoor gathering rooms, card room and conference spaces on the main level.

“This marks a significant milestone for the Waterside community as it opens the doors to this exciting, state-of-the-art clubhouse amenity, which will allow for endless opportunities for social engagement throughout the community,” said Lisa Murphy, VP of Strategy at The Providence Group.

The gated community is also approved for golf carts so residents can take full advantage of this Peachtree Corners location, which was recently named to the Fortune 2023 list of 50 Best Places to Live for Families.

 “Waterside residents will enjoy the balance of city conveniences and genuine outdoor, close to nature and state-of-the-art amenities, said Ty White, Partner with East Jones Bridge River Holdings. “Whether you are looking for outdoor activities, shopping, dining or entertainment, you will find it just minutes from your front door.”

Located one mile from The Forum on Peachtree Parkway, Waterside’s initial phase of development focused on single-family detached homes, two-story and three-story townhomes with elevator options and unique one, two and three bedroom condos with private garages and no shared corridors.

Construction is now underway in phase 2, which will be a continuation of townhomes and condominiums, as well as 13 unique single family homes with views of the Chattahoochee River.

Learn more about Waterside in Peachtree Corners by visiting here.

Photos courtesy of Waterside Community

For more Peachtree Corners land use and development news, click here!

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