Plan Commission approves demolition permit for downtown Madison building home to Paisan’s restaurant

MADISON, Wis. — Madison’s Plan Commission voted unanimously Monday evening in favor of a demolition permit for a downtown building plagued with structural issues.

The building at 131 West Wilson Street, home to Paisan’s Italian Restaurant, has been ordered to close three times since September over structural concerns. The most recent closure was ordered earlier this month.

On Monday afternoon, barricades and warning signs were visible at the entrance and exit to the building’s underground parking structure. Another sign warned the building cannot be occupied until code violations have been corrected and approved by the city.

Earlier this year, the building’s owner filed a notice of intent to tear it down. The demolition request painted a dire picture, warning the building is “at risk of immediate collapse,” but city officials have pushed back on those claims.

During Monday’s meeting, Matt Tucker, the director of the city’s building inspection division, said that while the city doesn’t believe the building is at risk of collapse, city officials are “very supportive of this demolition moving forward and this building being taken down.”

Tucker noted the building’s parking structure was noted as being in poor condition as far back as 2016.

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

Longtime downtown Ald. Mike Verveer, whose district includes 131 West Wilson Street, said he was “disappointed” in the tone of the demolition request.

“It unnecessarily alarmed adjacent residents,” he said. “I have heard from many residents at 111 and 139 West Wilson Street that literally were worried (about) whether or not they need to relocate.”

While Verveer said the reality is the building needs to come down, it’s “shocking” that it “has been allowed to deteriorate to this condition.”

“It’s just unbelievable to me — and I think always will be unbelievable to me — how a building constructed in 1971 could be in such a severe condition that it has to come down, particularly a building of this substance, but the reality is is that’s where we are, it is what it is,” he said.

RELATED: Developer outlines proposal for new 14-story structure if current building home to Paisan’s is demolished

Wally Borowski, one of Paisan’s restaurant’s co-owners, spoke against the demolition permit request and called on the commission to delay the vote until the building’s owner can work with the restaurant to resolve its lease.

While the demolition request does not include a proposed future use, in April a developer outlined an early concept for a 14-story mixed-use building that could include commercial and residential space.

The building’s owner, Greg Rice, has not responded to numerous requests for comment since the first shutdown in September. Neither Rice nor any representatives on his behalf were at Monday’s meeting.

It’s not immediately clear when the building could be demolished.