SURVEYING THE LANDSCAPE: Joe Novak, founder of Novac Garden Design & Construction, has found a home for his business in the Butcher Block Mill and has benefited from the location’s ability to foster collaboration.
PBN PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
By Patrick Anderson PBN Staff Writer
Before he started his own business and moved into Butcher Block Mill in Providence, Joe Novak, founder of Novac Garden Design & Construction, endured a double dose of Rhode Island career tumult.
The Pennsylvania native had moved to the Ocean State from California to work on the creation of the Roger Williams Botanical Garden, a project that was eventually scaled back, costing him his job.
Then he was hired as a construction manager for a large landscape firm, but that company collapsed during the recession and he was laid off.
Now Novak is happy to be working for himself and, although he says he is most comfortable working with plants, has already benefited from the environment of creative entrepreneurs at Butcher Block.
Soon after moving into the renovated mill, Novak began collaborating with Joel Gietler, the owner of IntegraStone, a building-material manufacturer down the hall whose products work well in landscape designs.
“Most spaces are single garages of warehouses, not a community of people,” Novac said of Butcher Block. “In a mill building with other creative professionals, there is an energy that helps you be more creative.”
The collaboration between Novak and Gietler is central to the mission of Butcher Block Mill and other projects run by the Partnership for Creative Space.
Since the nonprofit was founded nearly a decade ago, partnership Director Erik Bright has seen the market for commercial spaces turned inside out by the economy and housing collapse.
Through it all, the spaces run by the partnership have remained in demand with the newest, Butcher Block, 90 percent full, with only two of 20 units vacant.
In addition to Novak Garden and Integrastone, Bright points to Rhode Island School of Design professor David Dilks’ design and fabrication business, which has brought 3-D printing into the complex, as examples of the innovation potential there.