onePulse to stop paying for operations at interim memorial site starting next week

Decision comes amid major changes in plans for permanent memorial

ORLANDO, Fla. – Changes could be coming to the site of the Pulse Nightclub interim memorial next week as the onePulse Foundation plans to stop paying for daily operations.

“The insurance, the lighting, the music – there are operating costs to running the interim memorial” said onePulse Executive Director Deborah Bowie.

The interim memorial opened to the public in 2018 at the site of what was once the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Visitors from across the country and around the world have stopped at the site to pay their respects to the 49 people who lost their lives there on June 12, 2016.

Plans have been underway since then to erect a permanent memorial and museum for several years.

However, a series of events happened over the spring and summer months, Bowie said, which have forced onePulse to explore a new site for that memorial.

A security guard keeps watch over the interim memorial at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

In April, the foundation’s founder, Pulse Nightclub Owner Barbara Poma, stepped down from the organization.

And in May, onePulse announced the memorial would be built on a different site after one of the nightclub’s investors refused to donate his share of the property to the foundation.

In July, onePulse sent a letter to Poma announcing it would not be renewing its lease on the site after its Temporary Use Permit expired more than a year prior.

The letter closed with, “the foundation will pay the monthly expenses until August 31.”

Bowie said the foundation spends between $9,000 and $10,000 on those expenses each month.

“We’ve been moving forward actually for several months behind the scenes,” Bowie told News 6. “When the foundation learned that we weren’t going to get the donated property, we were really, at that point, forced into -- Do we stop? Do we just stop our mission and not see this through? That would be a terrible result. So we kept moving.”

As of Aug. 31, onePulse will no longer pay for key items, such as security or electricity at the site.

Visitors write messages on a marker board at the interim memorial site of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Bowie said the money saved will go toward the memorial on a new site.

“Our design and construction committee for months has been working on an alternative plan that includes multiple different locations,” she said. “I know that’s not ideal for people who really have their heart set on it being at the actual nightclub, but we’re not in the position to make that happen.

News 6 contacted Poma and asked if she and her investors would pay for the expenses at the interim memorial after Aug. 31.

She declined appearing on-camera, offering a statement instead:

“Last month, citing an expired Temporary Use Permit no longer allowed them to maintain the Pulse Interim Memorial, the onePULSE Foundation unexpectedly notified us that it would be ending its lease agreement nearly a year before its 2024 expiration. This left us suddenly responsible for maintaining the site as it stands today. The Foundation is responsible for keeping current regulatory obligations associated with the property, including keeping current the Temporary Use Permit, which lapsed after an extension notice was sent to the Foundation in 2021 stating it would expire May 2022. The Foundation was always able to acquire a new permit. The Foundation just needed consent from us – the property owners – which had we been asked -- which we were not -- we would have given without question.

“This continues to be a difficult situation; while our business partner refused to donate his portion of the property to the Foundation, we, however, did agree to donate our share, and we made that commitment to the Foundation both verbally and in writing.

“Due to the unanticipated nature of this issue, we are evaluating the needs of the site to determine our next steps.”

“I always keep hope alive that at the end of the day, people will do the right thing and move beyond whatever the issues are and think about what’s the greater good,” Bowie said. “I mean, that’s, of course, always my hope.”

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.