Why the Capitol-Park Theater does NOT need to be razed

State of Wisconsin, Commercial Building Inspector


A person who inspects public buildings and places of employment as a certified Commercial Building Inspector shall:

  • Maintain a record of the inspections made including the dates and the findings of the inspections;
  • Provide a copy of the inspection report to the owner of the property or his or her agent;
  • Make available to the Department upon request his or her inspection records.

In support of our project to pause or stop the raze order on the Capitol Theater, I am looking for a report by the Chief Building Inspector detailing the specifics that gave rise to the raze order on the Capitol-Park Theater (which I take to be the letter Chief Inspector Plaski wrote to John Apple June 28, 2018). Such a report is required by the Wisconsin Statutes (see side box, right).

In his raze order letter of June 28, Inspector Plaski describes the building as “so old, delapidated, or out of repair so as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use”. This is very general and there must surely be more detailed information in his original report.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission Agenda Briefing Memorandum of July 16, 2018, contains (if the public record is complete) erroneous statements,
“Over the past seven years, the property owner John Apple has received numerous orders from the Building Department’s Code Compliance Inspector to repair the building”.
  1. Response: We have located one repair order of August 28, 2017, which included no threat to raze, one vacate order of June 18, 2018, which included no threat to raze, and one raze order of June 28, 2018. If there are more documents on the public record, we would be pleased to see them.
Photo of part of decorative proscenium


Worth Saving? Oh, yes!


Furthermore, in Newspaper articles, Mr. Plaski makes more inaccurate statements:

  • “Plaski reported that the building’s exterior is in disrepair. At Monday’s Landmarks Preservation Committee meeting, a photograph was shown depicting visible holes in the roof of the theater.” (Journal Times, July 16, 2018)
    Response: the photographs did NOT show “visible holes” in the roof but only murky views of the interior ground floor.
  • “There’s more holes than there is ceiling, actually,” Plaski said. A flock of birds has also been living in the building for a decade or more, and there is 3 to 4 inches of bird excrement piled up where they nest, he added”. (Journal Times, March 27, 2019)
    Response: He is referring to the non-structural drop ceiling of polystyrene tiles. The supporting grid, in fact, remains largely intact. The quantity of bird excrement is grossly exaggerated.
  • “Ken Plaski, the chief building inspector, said in an interview that … [there is] a collapsed roof” [on the upper floors]” (Journal Times, December 17, 2020)
    Response: there is no collapsed roof.
  • Plaski explained The Park had both structural issues and met the unreasonable cost of repairs element of the statute”. (Journal Times, December 17, 2020)
    Response: Plaski has yet to itemize those structural issues.
  • “This building … [is] such a danger now, if there should be a heavy snow load, if there should be a strong wind, you have four sides of that building that could shed its brick facade and come down”, Plaski said. (Journal Times, December 29, 2020)
    Response: Plaski has never demonstrated this. Further he apparently attributes to the Park Theater the same poor integrity as its neighbor on Washington Avenue, whose facade came down in near-tornado winds in 2013, at which time the building was NOT razed but had its facade replaced (Journal Times, November 17, 2013).

Since these statements are not, and have never been true, it is surely within the citizens’ rights to insist they be substantiated or retracted. As the situation stands, in the writer’s opinion, they amount to libel.

And this is why the Capitol-Park Theater does NOT need to be razed!