ORLANDO — The owner of Pulse nightclub in Florida has abandoned plans to sell the property, choosing instead to turn the scene of a mass shooting into a “sanctuary of hope,” her attorney said.
Barbara Poma was set to sell the nightclub to the city of Orlando so it could be turned into a memorial for victims of the June 12 massacre, which left 49 people dead and dozens wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
Selling it was the best way to keep its legacy intact, she said in November. Poma and a partner opened the nightclub in 2004 as a monument to her brother, who died of AIDS in 1991. The club was meant to embrace the gay lifestyle and be a community partner, she said, calling it more than “just another gay club.”
The shooting transformed it into a “sacred place” that needed to be preserved as a memorial to the victims, she said.
On Monday, she announced she would not sell the nightclub. She said she had been struggling with the decision since before Thanksgiving.
“The struggle was with letting it go and it’s something I couldn’t come to grips with,” Poma said. “You couldn’t put a price on it for me.”
“I intend to create a space for everyone, a sanctuary of hope, and a welcoming area to remember all those affected by the tragedy,” Poma said.
She promised to invite the community, the city, the victims and their families to contribute feedback but said she had no clear plans for the structure.
“I think it’s hard for us to say what the future is going to be,” she said in a news conference Monday.
“We’ve built businesses but we’ve never built a memorial.”
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he respected the decision and hopes the site remains a place of hope and healing.
“We believe it is important for the community to have input into a memorial that honors the victims and pays tribute to the resiliency of Orlando,” he said in a statement.
“City staff will continue to research and understand how other communities have approached the memorial process. As we better understand that process, and after engaging with our commissioners and community partners, we’ll update the community on the next steps.”