Barbara Poma didn’t want to give up the gay nightclub that, for 12 years, had stood as a monument to her deceased brother. On Tuesday, she said, she realized letting the Orlando club go was the best way to keep its legacy intact.
Calling it an “emotional and bittersweet day,” Poma confirmed that the city of Orlando intends to buy Pulse nightclub so that it can be turned into a memorial for the 49 people killed in a June massacre.
The City Council will vote Monday on whether to approve the $2.25 million purchase of the Florida nightclub, according to a statement from the city.
“Never could I have imagined that the building we built as Pulse Nightclub would not be a part of my daily life. Pulse was a huge part of my heart, my soul and my family,” she said in a statement. “As difficult as it is for me to part with Pulse, this transaction ensures that what has become a sacred site will be properly memorialized for generations to come.”
Poma’s brother, John, died of AIDS in 1991. Poma and a partner opened Pulse in 2004 “to keep her brother’s spirit alive,” naming the club after his heartbeat. The club was meant to embrace the gay lifestyle and be a community partner. It referred to itself as more than “just another gay club.”
After a 29-year-old gunman claiming allegiance to ISIS perpetrated the nation’s worst mass shooting there in June, killing more than four dozen people and wounding 53 others, Poma realized the nightclub must stand as a far grander memorial than originally intended.
“The memories of those who were taken or were harmed, and the legacy of Pulse Nightclub and why it was established, will be preserved forever,” she said. “Since the day of this terrible tragedy, my commitment has been that the heart of Pulse Nightclub keep beating and now we can all be assured that will happen.”
Poma promised to be involved in the plans for a memorial and predicted “a long process” with community input.
If the purchase is approved, the city will review the land survey, title and environmental audit during the due diligence period before closing by December 30, the statement said.
“This location is now a permanent part of Orlando’s history. It’s the site of the most tragic event that has ever occurred in the city of Orlando,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said in the statement. “We want our entire community to be a part of this site. With the city owning the property, we can engage in a public process to determine the future of the Pulse property and building.”
Dyer and Poma had preliminary discussions about the possibility of the city buying the site over the summer, a representative for Poma told CNN in August.
“We need to determine some period of time that we leave it exactly as is with some adequate fencing because there will be people … that want to travel here to see it as it exists without making modifications,” Dyer told WMFE radio during an August interview.
Dyer imagined that period of time would be about a year and then the city would “transition to a permanent memorial,” he said.
The nightclub was returned to Poma after police conducted a weekslong investigation. Poma initially said she thought she would fix the damage to Pulse and reopen it at some point. Later, she said she was contemplating the future of the club, which she called “a sacred place.”
Visitors have adorned a chain-link fence surrounding Pulse with flags, flowers, mementos and messages.
The city has said it plans to erect a paver garden as a permanent memorial. The names of the victims will be on stones around Lake Beauty Park outside Orlando Regional Medical Center, where many of the wounded were treated.
The site was also home to 49 wooden crosses, made by an Illinois carpenter, that were displayed outside the hospital. They are now in climate-controlled storage.
The Orange County Regional History Center plans to use them and items from other temporary memorials as part of a permanent memorial, once a site has been determined.