onePULSE Foundation terminates lease with owners of Pulse Nightclub property

The prospects for a Pulse national memorial to be built on the site of the Pulse Nightclub, commemorating the victims, survivors, first responders, and those impacted by the 2016 mass shooting, appear less likely after the onePulse Foundation announced it has terminated its lease with the current owners of the property on S. Orange Ave. in Orlando. 

The nonprofit foundation, established to create a permanent Pulse memorial and museum, has been at odds with its founder on where to build the complex. 

The onePULSE Foundation said it had previously planned to build a national memorial on the grounds of the Pulse Nightclub. In the months following the shooting on June 12, 2016, the nightclub property had been turned into an interim memorial lined with photographs of the victims and rainbow-colored flowers and mementos. The site continues to draw several visitors each year, according to the foundation.  

Plans for a permanent memorial on the nightclub property fell through when the foundation was unable to reach an agreement with Pulse owner and onePULSE founder Barbara Poma, her husband, Rosario Poma, and their business partner, Michael Panaggio, the foundation said earlier this year. 

The foundation on Thursday said a temporary use permit allowing for the property to serve as an interim memorial had expired more than a year ago, on May 5, 2022. The foundation said it was unaware of the expired permit, "because the permit was granted to the property owner(s) and issued under Barbara Poma’s name."

"Following failed negotiations with the property owners for the full donation of the Pulse nightclub property, onePULSE has no legal authority to manage the site, nor handle its day-to-day care, and security. Therefore, these matters have now become the sole responsibility of the property owners," the foundation said in a statement sent to FOX 35 News. "As a courtesy, and to ensure a smooth transition in management, the foundation has agreed to continue to pay the monthly operating expenses until August 31, 2023, and will also pay a pro-rata share of the property tax for the current year."


Early plans called for the construction of a memorial at the nightclub’s location and a museum several blocks away. A group of survivors and family members of those killed in the tragedy formed an organization to oppose the building of a private museum to honor the victims. 

Members of the Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum said the nightclub should be torn down, and any money raised for a private museum instead should be channeled to survivors. "Put people first," the group said on its website. "We care more about our survivors than educating tourists."  The coalition also called for a memorial to be constructed on public property.

In 2019, the foundation purchased land to build a museum on a property that sits about a third of a mile from the Pulse nightclub site. At the time, foundation officials said funding from Orange County helped cover the cost of the $3.5 million parcel at 438 W. Kaley Street [GMap].  That same year, the foundation launched a global design competition for the memorial and museum which was later awarded to French firm Coldefy & Associés with RDAI and Orlando-based HHCP Architects.

National Pulse Museum rendering for property at 438 W Kaley St, Orlando. Designs by Coldefy & Associés with RDAI and Orlando-based HHCP Architects.

National Pulse Museum rendering for property at 438 W Kaley St, Orlando. Designs by Coldefy & Associés with RDAI and Orlando-based HHCP Architects.

Poma was succeeded as executive director of the onePULSE Foundation by Deborah Bowie in May 2022 and had begun pivoting her focus on the foundation’s national fundraising efforts – part of a new leadership transition that began in 2021, according to the foundation.  Then, in April 2023, it was announced that Poma had left the organization

Poma had helped to open the club in 2004 in memory of her older brother, John, who died after a long battle with AIDS in 1991. 

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 13: Law enforcement officials investigate at the Pulse gay nightclub where Omar Mateen allegedly killed at least 50 people on June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The mass shooting killed at least 50 people and injuring 53 others in

The gunman who killed 49 victims and wounded dozens of others at the nightclub during a three-hour standoff with law enforcement on June 12, 2016, was eventually killed by SWAT team members. Authorities said the gunman pledged fealty to the Islamic State in talks with hostage negotiators and 911 operators during the standoff.

At the time, the Pulse massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. However, another mass shooting the following year along the Las Vegas Strip became the deadliest when 58 people were killed.