“A testament to the state of housing on campus:” City investigates Mifflin St. balcony collapse

The Madison Police Department said emergency crews are responding to a porch collapse at a home...
The Madison Police Department said emergency crews are responding to a porch collapse at a home on West Mifflin Street.(NBC15)
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 7:15 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The annual Mifflin St. block party returned Saturday, but some students are still recovering after a second-floor balcony gave out injuring at least three people. Now, the city of Madison is investigating the property’s past.

The residents of the home did not want to speak to media Monday, but said the people on the balcony at the time of the collapse are recovering.

Ross Reddington, a senior at UW, says he is concerned that as the homes on Mifflin and around campus continue to age, this won’t be the last time something like this happens. Reddington saw it all go down from across the street.

“We were just standing and talking, and I heard a crack,” he said. “There were people falling, everybody panicked. Everybody on our balcony took a step back and we were like ‘ok, let’s get off the porch.”

Reddington shared video of the aftermath with NBC15. People can be seen clinging to what is left of the porch after the front beam gave out. Nobody was seriously injured, but Reddington says there is a bigger issue at hand.

“I think it’s a testament to the state of housing on campus right now,” he said. “Two of the houses I have lived in are 100 years old. I can say the balconies definitely seem to get a little overlooked when it comes to be time to do renovations on the houses.”

The city has been inspecting Mifflin St. properties for decades, however, in the weeks leading up to the block party. Inspector Supervisor JoseMaria Donoso says this year was no exception.

“We walk around the property and check it out for anything that concerns us,” he explained.

According to Donoso, property managers can be cited for anything inspectors see from the ground level. But the house in question had no complaints against it or visible damage, he said. When building inspectors checked the house in mid-March, they couldn’t tell the front beam of the deck was rotting because it was wrapped in metal siding.

“The structure of the deck was compromised and didn’t support the load applied to it,” Donoso said.

This house and others on Mifflin St. are nearing 100 years old. According to District 4 Alder Mike Verveer, city records show the balcony was illegally reconstructed in 1987 without a building permit. An inspector was sent out after it’s reconstruction, however, to ensure the balcony was up to code.

“I cannot overstate how scary this was,” Verveer said. “We are fortunate this was not more tragic.”

Verveer says in all his years as an alder and Madison resident, his biggest fear for the “inevitable” block party is a balcony collapse. He says the city is pledging to work harder in the next year to make sure Mifflin homes are prepared for large gatherings in years to come.

The property management company, Birwood LLC, would not provide a comment. According to Donoso the management company arrived on the scene soon after the collapse Saturday to assist and is cooperating in the investigation.

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