KENOSHA — It’s going to take some time, but plans are in place for the Danish Brotherhood Lodge, destroyed by last summer’s riots, to have a new and improved home.
And the more than 200 members who relocate there won’t be going to the new digs empty-handed — they’ll have both the American and Wisconsin flags to fly high and proud.
U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., and State Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem Lakes, traveled to Kenosha on Friday morning to present the group with new flags. The new flags will replace those burned when their historic building on 63rd Street was left in ruins by rioters on Aug. 24, one night after the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer.
The brief ceremony was held outside Chutes and Ladders Restaurant, 3812 60th St., which has been one of several locations the group has used to meet since being displaced.
Rob Nelson, past president of the Danish Brotherhood, said the new location will be in the former Sears building at Pershing Plaza, 7530 Pershing Blvd. The timetable for the group to move permanently is probably at least another 18 months, and likely longer than that, he said.
There’s plenty of work ahead yet, he said.
“It’s all going to depend on how fast the contractors move,” Nelson said. “Some timelines look like they’re going to be spread out longer than we anticipated, but some are coming in where we might be able to get things done a little quicker. Everything is still in flux.”
Much more space
The brotherhood’s former building, which had stood since 1910, was about 8,000 square feet, while the group’s new home will be right around 46,000 square feet, with the Danish Brotherhood utilizing between 18,000-19,000 square feet of that, Nelson said. The building is expected to be broken into three sections to allow for commercial tenants as well.
To rebuild at the former site would have cost about $2 million, which wasn’t feasible because of restrictions from the insurance side, Nelson said.
Nelson said there’s hope some longtime events organized by the group, like a pancake breakfast and bingo, may return in some form soon.
“This summer, if we can figure out logistically how to do a breakfast, we want to do that,” he said. “Then maybe toward the end of this year, try to do bingo again and little things.”
The community support for the group hasn’t stopped in the wake of the destruction, Nelson said.
And that has come in the form of other businesses offering a place to meet to monetary donations and many things in between.
“After the riots (happened) and they offered state funds to help the businesses affected, we didn’t qualify for any funds because we’re a nonprofit,” he said. “A lot of it, we’ve had to rely on donations to keep the ball rolling. We’ve definitely benefited a lot from that.”
Reason for optimism
Steil, R-Janesville, said he’s encouraged to see the Danish Brotherhood’s determination to return from such massive destruction.
“(They’ve) made that commitment that they’re coming back and are continuing to serve the community,” Steil said. “I believe what they’re saying is they’re going to come back stronger than before and continue to engage the community. I thought, what a great way to come out, say hello, say thanks for their work and do it with the pride of the United States with our flag.”
The American flag Steil presented came straight from the U.S. Capitol, and from his perspective, that holds plenty of symbolism as the nation continues to rebuild from not only the riots and civil unrest across the country last summer, but the global pandemic.
“I’m excited to present it,” Steil said. “What occurred in Kenosha, the eyes of the nation were on our city for a number of days, so much so that the President of the United States came. I was on the phone with President Trump on a daily basis, talking about what was playing out here, how we get resources into the community, ultimately inviting him to come to the city, as he obviously did.
“To me, it’s saying the eyes of the nation are upon Kenosha. Everyone across the country wants to see Kenosha succeed. The flag of the United States Capitol, the seat of our nation’s government, is symbolically saying, ‘Let’s all come together to come back stronger and rebuild stronger than we were before.’”
Kerkman said a member of the group reached out to her office, and she then contacted Steil to get the ball rolling prior to Friday’s ceremony.
Having a flag from both the national and state levels fit the bill perfectly, she said.
“Showing the federal and state response, I think was really fitting and symbolic,” Kerkman said. “I’m excited to go see their (new) facility. We need organizations like theirs to impact our community, to help build it stronger, regardless of COVID or civil unrest that’s going on.”