City of Orlando to buy former Pulse site for future permanent memorial

The proposed $2 million land purchase will go before the city council Monday

click to enlarge City of Orlando to buy former Pulse site for future permanent memorial
Photo by J.D. Castro
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on Wednesday announced the city will consider purchasing the site of the former Pulse nightclub south of downtown in order to build a permanent memorial.

Dyer said in a public statement the decision comes after meeting with survivors and family members of loved ones who were killed during a shooting at the nightclub in 2016. Forty-nine people were killed, with dozens wounded and traumatized in the nation’s second-deadliest modern mass shooting. Most of those killed were young Latinos and people of color.

The proposed $2 million land purchase will go before the city council Monday. If approved by the council, then the sale would close Oct. 27 and the process od building a memorial on the site would begin, Dyer told the Orlando Sentinel.

"We recently met with some families of the victims, and survivors of the Pulse tragedy, who shared their desire for a permanent memorial at the Pulse site," Dyer shared in a statement posted to X, the site formerly known as Twitter. "To expedite the creation of a lasting memorial to honor the 49 angels, the City of Orlando is pursuing purchasing the site."

The nightclub, located on South Orange Avenue, is currently home to an interim memorial dedicated to victims of the 2016 attack, and has remained a source of controversy since.

A number of survivors, families of victims and community members have advocated for a permanent memorial at the site amid a series of changing plans and relations between property owners and the OnePulse Foundation, a nonprofit established shortly after the tragedy to provide immediate financial assistance to affected victims and to develop a memorial in commemoration of lives lost.
The Pulse site has been under the ownership of Barbara Poma, her husband Rosario, and Florida businessman Michael Panaggio. Barbara Poma was formerly the executive director of the OnePulse Foundation, until she stepped down from the position last year and left the organization entirely this year.

The city previously announced it had been involved in a deal to purchase the site from the Pomas for $2.25, before the Pomas ultimately backed out. In 2019, onePulse announced plans for a museum and memorial to honor victims. The proposed plans included a reflecting pool and a set of 49 trees around the club, but the foundation said it would scale back plans due to rising costs earlier this year.

No Pulse Museum, an Orlando organization critical of OnePulse, the Pomas, and any memorial that would turn a profit, issued a response to Dyer's announcement:
"We will continue to advocate for a criminal investigation and inspection of the code violations and unpermitted renovations inside Pulse that hindered escape and rescue before the City bulldozes the building and tries to destroy the evidence."
Dyer told Orlando Sentinel the city has yet to make any decisions on the future of the site, or what a memorial might look like. He says the city will look to set up a timetable down the road.
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Chloe Greenberg

Chloe Greenberg is the Digital Content Editor for Orlando Weekly.

McKenna Schueler

News reporter for Orlando Weekly, with a focus on state and local government, workers' rights, and housing issues. Previously worked for WMNF Radio in Tampa. You can find her bylines in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, In These Times, Strikewave, and Facing South among other publications.
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