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Mayor and owner want to turn Orlando nightclub Pulse into a memorial for the 49 killed

Pulse
A makeshift memorial outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
(John Raoux / AP Photo)

The city of Orlando, Fla., has shown interest in purchasing Pulse nightclub to establish a permanent memorial to the 49 people killed by a gunman there in June.

“At some point I think the city needs to gain control [or] purchase the Pulse site and then make some determination, with a lot of input, on what a permanent memorial might look like,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said in a radio interview Wednesday.

Dyer also said he’d like to see the club remain unchanged for a time, possibly a year, so that people who want to visit can see Pulse in its current state.

“People are traveling from all over the country, really all over the world,” Dyer said. “I’ve been, quite honestly, a little surprised at the volume of visitors that we have had.”

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Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer listens to a question at a news conference days after the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer listens to a question at a news conference days after the Pulse nightclub shooting.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images )

On Wednesday, Dyer toured the Pulse site with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is visiting Orlando with his husband. The mayor was unavailable for an interview, but spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser says the city has a genuine interest in purchasing the nightclub.

“We wouldn’t be having these discussions if the mayor wasn’t serious in our interest in acquiring the property,” she said.

Pulse spokeswoman Sara Brady said the club’s owner, Barbara Poma, met with city officials recently to “explore options.” However, Brady stressed that those talks were “very preliminary.”

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“She really doesn’t know what she wants to do other than her desire is that the site become a memorial,” Brady said. “It’s sacred ground to her.”

Since the June 12 mass shooting, Pulse has already become a temporary memorial, surrounded by candles, signs and flowers left by visitors, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In the weeks after the massacre, mourners also left items at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Orlando Regional Medical Center and Lake Eola Park, many of which were collected by the Orange County Regional History Center.

Last month, Poma and her attorney formed a not-for-profit company, OnePulse Foundation, with the stated purpose of “conceiving, funding and aiding in the construction of a permanent memorial” at the Pulse site, state records show.

On Sunday, the nightclub posted an announcement on Instagram that said the club would reopen as a memorial, before releasing a correction indicating the post was premature.

The nightclub opened in 2004 in honor of Poma’s brother John, who died of AIDS in 1991. The property’s assessed value for 2016 was about $470,000.

Weiner writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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