OnePulse executive director talks about future plans for memorial site

Deborah Bowie: ‘We’re committed to building the memorial’

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Deborah Bowie, appointed executive director of onePULSE Foundation in 2022, told News 6 about the changes needed to original plans for the memorial site in remembrance of the 49 lives taken on June 12, 2016 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“I think the greatest travesty would be not doing a memorial,” Bowie said. “I really did not think that a year later we would be scrapping the original location for the memorial and now looking for a new home. It’s very disappointing and beyond that it is upsetting that there are so many people who have been impacted by what happened here really caught up in the middle.”

Since the tragedy, negotiations between the onePULSE Foundation and the owners of the nightclub had been ongoing.

However, in May, the nightclub’s co-owner Barbara Poma said she was willing to donate the Pulse nightclub property to the onePULSE Foundation. But a third party, the nightclub’s business partner, was not.

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“It is not an ideal situation, but we’re committed to building the memorial, nonetheless. I just wish it had a different ending, but we can’t let the dispute stop the effort,” Bowie said.

According to Bowie, in January, the board decided to take a look at the original project and review changes needed due to rising costs.

“One of the changes that’s the most significant about what’s different for the future is that our board met at the end of January to take another look at their capitol projects,” Bowie said. “The board said we need to rescale the project. It’s gotten massive, it’s expensive, and an expensive building to build means an expensive building to maintain.”

The cost of the original project was about $50 million, but according to Bowie, it began to get more expensive — close to $100 million for the construction of the memorial site, a museum and the Orlando Health Survivors Walk.

“This is an outdoor three-block property that really connects the hospital to the nightclub. This is the little path that first responders took people on the morning of the tragedy, so this underground utility work is actually getting started in July,” Bowie said. “So the very first thing that came out of that strategy session was to rescale, meaning we’re not going to do the very large project that initially we thought that we would do. But rather take a look at the warehouse building that we’ve already purchased with the TDT grant and use that existing warehouse and repurpose it.”

OnePULSE Foundation is currently looking into two alternative sites for the memorial — either the 27,500 square foot property next to the nightclub they purchased or a warehouse they also acquired located less than a mile from the nightclub on West Kaley Street.

“I think there’s probably generally been a lot more consensus around the memorial. People don’t want what happened here to go away. They want to remember it,” Bowie said. “There’s concern we don’t know what will happen to the nightclub. And the other idea is to use the future museum site and build a memorial adjacent to it so you have a self-contained area or to have two memorials,” Bowie said. “Right now, our design and construction crew is taking a look at the warehouse building and coming up with a new design to see how that 47,000 square feet structure could be repurposed, meaning it will still house a portion of it would have the museum, but now we have additional space that could be used by and for the community — meaning other nonprofits that don’t have a place to convene.”

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