We’d like to take a minute to congratulate our very own Joe Garlick on being the recipient of this year’s Frederick C. Williamson Professional Leadership Award for Historical Preservation!
NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley’s Executive Director, Joe Garlick has been at the helm of NWBRV since 1994. While his focus is on creating and sustaining affordable housing opportunities for Rhode Islanders, his work has simultaneously aided in preserving Rhode Island’s historic landscape and context.
Presented by Preserve Rhode Island, the 13th annual Rhody Awards for Historic Preservation included a range of Ocean State projects, individuals and areas. Chosen by a panel of historians, architects, developers, community leaders and preservationists, the Rhody Awards focused on highlighting work that supports affordable low-income housing, rejuvenates historic downtowns, saves rural landscapes and protects iconic landmarks. Award recipients were celebrated during a reception and ceremony at Ochre Court in Newport on Sunday, October 23, 2022.
While Joe’s work in affordable housing and preservation has known no bounds over the last three decades, we’d like to take a second to acknowledge just a few of his most noteworthy projects.
In 1995, many residents of Constitution Hill had lost hope, as their beloved neighborhood nearly succumbed to the numerous troubles that plagued their streets. Through the limitless dedication of Joe and NWBRV (formerly the WNDC), the five year rehabilitation of Constitution Hill was deemed a “victory” by Woonsocket police; as the high crime neighborhood was entirely revitalized into a low crime area. To quote a local officer in 2000, the efforts in Constitution Hill resulted in a “total reclamation of the neighborhood.” The conversion of abandoned housing into affordable housing helped stabilize the area and reverse the devastation caused by absentee landlords. Joe’s work in Constitution Hill from 1995-2000 culminated in over 100 affordable scattered site rental units throughout the Constitution Hill neighborhood of Woonsocket-a triumph that has stood the test of time.
“One of the things about Joe that I’m sure most people know, is that he never gives up. So if he comes up with a really good idea, he’ll hold onto it, and he’ll think through it. And he’ll look at the resources available to him, and he’ll stay at it until he gets where he wants to go and he gets the project done.”Jeanne Cola, Executive Director, LISC
With a Masters Degree in City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University and a Bachelors Degree in Humanities from Providence College, Joe’s focus over the years has remained constant and detail oriented. His goal of revitalizing the notable Stillwater Mill resulted in 36 affordable and seven market rate rental units in a historic mill–increasing access to affordable housing while simultaneously rehabilitating a historic landmark. Sitting adjacent to the town’s library complex, this project also helped bring new life and foot traffic to the town center.
Currently, Joe and the NWBRV team have purchased three properties in the Island Place Historic District of Woonsocket at the gateway to Downtown/Main Street. The properties are part of a larger Creative Placemaking project, with plans for them to be developed as part of a phased strategic five-year redevelopment plan for the Millrace District. Joe’s hope is to transform a loose collection of industrial-aged mill buildings into a hub of art, culture and technology. One property, 40 South Main was completed in 2016, with goals of encouraging economic development throughout the entire downtown business district, while others remain in the works.
“We’re thrilled to learn that Joe Garlick has been selected for a 2022 Rhody Award. Under Joe’s leadership, Neighborworks Blackstone River Valley has made a very significant impact in furthering both affordable housing and historic preservation across our state,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “Joe’s career in preservation and affordable housing is exemplary. Through a mix of patience and ambitious vision, he has transformed communities throughout northern Rhode Island, helping to preserve significant historic buildings and entire historic neighborhoods. His work has helped residents to once again be able to celebrate their rich history and architectural roots in homes and neighborhoods that retain their historic character. We’re impressed with what he’s achieved!”