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City clears Downtown building with Paisan's to again reopen

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131 W. Wilson St. building

The Downtown office building that houses Paisan's restaurant was cleared Friday to reopen again.

A Downtown Madison office building that houses Paisan’s restaurant was cleared Friday to reopen again after the city’s building inspection agency last month ordered it closed for a second time because the property owner was not keeping up with required inspections of a degrading underground garage.

In a letter Friday to the property owner, the city’s Building Inspection Division said the common spaces of the 12-story structure at 131 W. Wilson St. were “in a safe stable condition for public use” following a monthlong second closure.

Paisan’s co-owner Wally Borowski said the first-floor Italian restaurant planned to reopen Friday in a limited capacity with a smaller menu for carryout and a little in-person seating.

“We hope that will get us started,” he said. “We’d like to get back to something close to what we’ve been doing here at Paisan’s.”

The city initially ordered the property shut in September due to structural concerns in a garage raised in an engineering report, and occupants of the building — constructed in 1971 — reportedly feeling a shaking or swaying inside.

The property management company, Executive Management Inc., had thousands of temporary shoring posts installed in the three-story, underground parking garage, which had been on the city’s radar for years because of degrading conditions such as exposed rebar and fallen concrete.

It was allowed to reopen in October, but the Building Inspection Division issued a second no-occupancy order in December, saying Executive Management failed to comply with city-required monitoring and inspection of the garage and shoring system.

A quick freeze and lack of snow created ideal conditions for ice skating on Lake Monona in January 2022.

Restaurant sues

The owners of Paisan’s, which was established in 1950 and moved into the Wilson Street location in 2006, took the issue to court, and a Dane County judge ordered the property owners to pay for the continual inspections and monitoring.

Matt Tucker, director of the Building Inspection Division, said the company that installed the shoring posts inspected them on Thursday, which paved the way for reopening the building.

He said he hopes the city won’t have to shutter the structure for a third time.

Executive Management did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

‘Acceptable’ measures

The Building Inspection Division’s letter on Friday said “steps taken to resume inspection and certification of the underground parking garage are acceptable and ensure the structural capacity of the building has been sufficiently maintained.”

Under the new requirements to reopen, the shoring system needs to be inspected and certified every two weeks, and the condition of the entire underground garage, which remains closed, has to be monitored by an independent structural engineer at least once every three months, according to the city’s letter.

The city reiterated the shoring posts “do not represent a permanent repair of the parking garage and are only sufficient to allow use of the building while a permanent repair is completed,” which has previously been estimated would cost several million dollars.

‘A shame’

Borowski said the restaurant’s owners are considering relocating, but added a lot of money was put into the Wilson Street location under the thought it would be a long-term investment that would slowly return profits year-over-year.

Through the two closures, some employees of Paisan’s have been absorbed at the sister restaurant Porta Bella, he said, but others left to find work elsewhere.

“This is crazy,” Borowski said. “We’ve been an ongoing restaurant for 71 years, and there’s been so many people who have come through the doors here, our employees, our customers, and it’s just such a shame this has happened.”


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