A lifelong resident of Rhode Island, Joseph R. Paolino’s entire career revolved around real estate, and in this important area of Rhode Island’s economy he had no peer.
Entrepreneurial, tough-minded, persistent, and unafraid of challenge, Paolino literally changed the face of Downtown Providence real estate. Joe’s father, Anthony, helped spark young Paolino’s early interest in real estate, and at the age of seventeen Joe sold his first piece of property.
Graduating from Providence College, Joe quickly mastered the finer points of real estate and property management and eventually took over the family business from his father. As founder and president of Paolino Properties, Joe Paolino, Sr. put his business savvy and intimate knowledge of real estate to work acquiring Downtown commercial properties and parking lots when few had the vision to see the city’s future promise.
Expanding from his base in the Downtown, Paolino began buying shopping centers and commercial properties in East Providence and Barrington. His diverse portfolio soon included such marquis properties as the Barrington Shopping Center and even historic Crescent Park.
Downtown Providence, though, was always the focus of his considerable energies, and he persevered despite economic downturns, the flight of key retailers, and the near abandonment of some neighborhoods that surrounded the Downtown core. He realized that historic preservation made good economic sense and throughout the 1970s and 1980s developed a solid working relationship with the state’s doyenne of historic preservation, Antoinette Downing. Under Joe’s guidance and mentorship, his son and namesake, Joseph R. Paolino, Jr., became president of the Providence City council and then the highly successful mayor of Providence.
Joe Paolino’s impressive involvement in civic and business organizations includes such roles as incorporator of First Bank and Trust; member of the Board of Advisors of Rhode Island Hospital Trust Bank, member of the Greater Providence Board of Realtors and the board of the Providence Foundation, and a director of Columbus National Bank. His gruff, smart, and blunt exterior was but one side of a man who displayed great sensitivity and generosity throughout his long life. His donation of the former Carr’s restaurant building on College Hill to Brown University provided not just another display of his philanthropy but also his commitment to strengthening the educational fabric of our capital city.
Even in his later years, Joe maintained a strong devotion to his business and an enviable capacity for work. Throughout decades of hard work he had expanded the Paolino real estate portfolio making Paolino Properties one of the largest family owned real estate holding companies in Rhode Island. Joseph R. Paolino, Sr. passed away on September 12, 2012 at the age of eighty-three, surrounded by his son Joe, Jr., his daughter Donna, and a loving family, but not before achieving inspirational greatness in his life and admirably succeeding in improving a community that he loved.
Herbert A Jeschke
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