Hartford Paving Corp Restores Original Neighborhood Charm
Federal Hill is a historic neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island, largely settled by Italian Americans in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, the district is known as the “Little Italy” of Rhode Island and is home to many restaurants, shops and markets that reflect the history of the area.
“Federal Hill is a very historic part of Providence where Italian families immigrated and lived together like they did in Little Italy in New York or The Hill in St. Louis,” said Anthony Corsinetti Jr., co-owner of Hartford Paving, Johnston, Rhode Island . “It’s more diverse now, but Italian restaurants and Italian culture is still the main vibe of the neighborhood, especially on Atwells Avenue.”
Atwells Avenue is the heart of the district. When Rhode Island Energy (RI Energy) needed to tear up the avenue in order to replace underground utilities servicing the area, the energy provider looked to Hartford Paving to restore the street while retaining the old charm of the iconic avenue.
“Like any old city in the northeast, there are a lot of old neighborhoods in need of an infrastructure upgrade,” Corsinetti said. “Atwells Avenue needed to be torn up so the utility companies could replace the antiquated utility systems beneath the street.”
Hartford Paving began work on the $6 million project for RI Energy in March 2021 and finished the ninth and final phase of the project in November 2022. The avenue was a patchwork of materials—asphalt roads, concrete crosswalks and brick intersections—that together create the particular aesthetic of Atwells Avenue. One that Hartford Paving wanted to maintain.
Corsinetti explained the different utility crews left considerable patchwork on the avenue in 2019 and 2020. “It was our job to put it back together again,” Corsinetti said. “What we tried to do is keep the old look of the Italian neighborhood, but do so in a modern way.”
All In The Family
Hartford Paving was founded in 1974 by Corsinetti’s father, Anthony Corsinetti Sr., and his business partner, Rocco Ciolfi, as a parking lot and driveway paving company. In 2000, Corsinetti Sr. bought out his partner. Then, in 2002, Anthony Corsinetti Jr. and his brother, Chris Corsinetti, took over the business when their father passed away.
In the following two decades, the brothers grew the business into a paving and site contracting company focused on paving municipal roads, parking lots, and patching (including utility patching and infrared patching).
The Corsinetti brothers also own a retail wholesale masonry yard. Today, the company employs 54 people across its divisions and has seven crews, paving more than 60,000 tons of asphalt in 2022.
Although the company has grown and changed over the years, some things have not—including many of Hartford Paving’s best customers.
“We’ve maintained working relationships with many of our customers over the years,” Corsinetti said. “We strive to do quality work for them, on time or early, and to make sure our customers get everything they ask for and more. That’s what keeps them coming back as repeat customers.”
One of the company’s most loyal customers is RI Energy. Hartford Paving won its first contract with the energy supplier back in 1982 when it was operating as Providence Gas. “We’ve had their business ever since,” Corsinetti said. “We can facilitate all their needs from large paving projects to patching.”
RI Energy delivers electricity and/or natural gas to more than 770,000 customers throughout Rhode Island.
Restore to Service
Asphalt paving made up the majority of Hartford Paving’s RI Energy project on Atwells Avenue.
To start, subcontractor Dan Amorello Services, Inc., milled up 3 inches of the existing asphalt before Hartford’s crews placed 1.5 inches of base course and 1.5 inches of surface course with its Cat 1055 and 555 pavers equipped with Trimble 3D machine control. The mix used was a Rhode Island State approved 9.5mm mix supplied by Bevilacqua Asphalt, carried by Hartford’s own haul trucks.
Hartford relies on B2W software for estimating and cost tracking. “That’s been very helpful with our estimators and project managers to make sure we maintain the costs we bid and help us bid for future projects because we can catch mistakes and make sure not to make them again,” Corsinetti said.
At the end of 2021, Hartford’s crews finished paving the 3,000 tons of asphalt the job required and wrapped up its work on the concrete crosswalks. In 2022, it placed brick through four large intersections along the avenue.
“Everything, from the pavers and brick to the asphalt paving came out quality,” Corsinetti said. “Other contractors in the state actually complimented us on the outcome of the project.”
Despite the variety of pavement types involved in the project, Corsinetti said the most challenging aspect of the project was minimizing impact to local businesses.
“This project came on the heels of the Covid-19 shutdown that had already really hurt these local businesses,” Corsinetti said. “Knowing how much those businesses had already suffered, we didn’t want to affect them anymore than we absolutely had to so it was important that we try to be as unobtrusive as possible.”
To do so, Hartford Paving tried to keep traffic flowing. “We set up 24 hour detours and one way travel as approved through the City of Providence Traffic Engineering to keep traffic flowing through the area at all times,” Corsinetti said. Once one side of the road was done and had reached the right temperature, they moved traffic to that side and started work on the other side. “We tried to do the same with the concrete pavers, which was a bit harder since it required more handwork.”
The brick intersections were removed by conventional means with a mini excavator and by hand as needed.
Corsinetti said Hartford’s project managers also did a great job giving businesses notice, working with local associations, keeping stakeholders informed and making it clear to motorists that local businesses were still open through the use of signs and message boards.
“We did our best not to disturb the local businesses there,” Corsinetti said. “But I still think they were glad to be rid of us when all was said and done.”
“Progress was needed up there and [the local business owners] knew it,” Corsinetti said. “They understood we were sympathetic to their plight, so they were sympathetic to ours.”
From Struggle to Success
Hartford Paving, like many contracting companies, understands firsthand the difficulty of surviving economic hardship.
“We struggled during the Great Recession, and my brother and I had to wear a lot of different hats to get us through that time,” Corsinetti said, including estimating jobs, performing sales, laboring and running equipment as needed to complete jobs in a timely manner.
They hired a consultant to help guide their business to the next level and learned the best way forward was to hire the right people for the right jobs. “We hired quality people for the field and the office and were able to delegate our vision to them, and that vision was of a company that gave its customers whatever they ask for and more.”
Corsinetti remembers conversations with the consultant about how price wouldn’t always be an issue on their bids. “When they told me that, I didn’t believe them,” he said. At the time, there was a lack of work and the company was being underbid on jobs while it was simultaneously attempting to grow its business. “Now, I can admit that I was wrong. We followed the mold they formed for us and took our company to where we are now, where we are still a profitable company even in difficult times.”
Corsinetti doesn’t yet know what the 2023 paving season will hold for the company, but he’s glad to have a team of employees he can rely on, a solid reputation for his company, and a book of repeat customers. “I think we’ll be plenty busy in our niche for the next couple of years,” he said. “But having contracts like the one we have with RI Energy gives us something to rely on.”
Find & Retain Employees
Although finding the right people for the right job was key to Hartford Paving’s success, Corsinetti said finding quality people is not always easy.
“We’re facing the same problems finding employees that everyone is nationwide,” Corsinetti said. “We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve, recruiting from tech schools in the area and making sure we are a teaching company where they can learn in the field. We still have consultants working with us on a monthly basis to train everyone on the best practices of paving. It’s important to teach the next generation who want to work with their hands, who don’t want to go to college, how to become leaders in this industry, how to become foremen, project managers, etc. We love promoting from within.”
Corsinetti said employee retention is very important to the success of the company, adding that the company’s great benefits package helps with retention. “We offer a 401K with 4% match, health insurance, biannual bonuses and profit sharing with employees,” he said.
The company also holds an annual employee appreciation day where it brings a variety of food trucks to the yard and the employees’ families are invited to join them for an afternoon of fun.
“We do our best to maintain good relationships with our employees,” Corsinetti said. “I get out in the field as much as I can, try to get to know the employees, ask how their kids are. Just knowing that we care about our employees’ lives goes a long way.”
“We’ve been a family business from the beginning,” Corsinetti said. “My brother and I treat everyone like family, from our employees to our customers. If you work for us or with us, you’re part of our family.”