Despite dire claim by owner, city says building housing Paisan’s is not ‘in immediate danger of collapse’

Building's owner wants to demolish it amid structural woes

MADISON, Wis. — The owners of the building housing Paisan’s restaurant want to demolish the structure, but despite a dire picture laid out in a demolition permit, the city of Madison said it has not received evidence the building could topple at any time.

In a letter sent to the City of Madison Planning Department earlier this month, Greg Rice, who is a member of the ownership group Rice Investors, LLC, requested a demolition permit. He said the building and parking structure at 131 West Wilson Street is deteriorating and “at risk of immediate collapse.”

The building was closed multiple times in recent months due to structural concerns, and temporary supports were placed in the parking garage to keep the building safe. Rice said those supports have exceeded their lifespan.

RELATED: Owner of property housing Paisan’s restaurant submits notice to tear down building

Concerns about the property date back years, including crumbling concrete in the garage. Rice said concrete is still breaking off and falling onto the floor of the garage, even with the supports installed.

Last year, the city ordered the building to be evacuated because inspection and monitoring reports were not being submitted as required. Rice said a recent inspection done by Pierce Engineers showed that the structure is compromised.

Rice said most of the building’s tenants have left and criticized the ones who have stayed.

“Any tenant that insists on remaining in the building at this point or delaying its demolition is putting its own interests above public safety,” Rice said.

Rice cited the recent collapse of condos in Waukesha and Florida as reasons to demolish the building, saying the situation is at the same risk. Specifically, Rice said the facade of the building is at risk of popping off and falling on top of someone.

“Make no mistake about it,” Rice said. “The building will fail, or brick will fall off sooner or later.”

In an interview with News 3 Now, Kyle Bunnow from the city’s building inspection division said the temporary supports in the building’s parking garage continue to do their job and that the city has not received evidence to support the dire conclusion.

“We have been given no information that this building is in imminent danger of collapse,” he said.

If the building’s ownership has determined it is in significantly worse shape, they should provide further details, he added.

Wally Borowski, the co-owner of Paisan’s, said he has a hard time believing anything his landlord has to say amid the ongoing saga. He said he first heard about the demolition permit from a news outlet.

“My head is spinning around because we haven’t done anything wrong here. We still aren’t doing anything wrong here,” Borowski said.

The structural concerns and evacuations led Paisan’s to temporarily close. The restaurant eventually moved operations to its sister location, Porta Bella.

Rice did not respond to a request for comment for this story.