ORLANDO, Fla. — In a significant development, the OnePULSE Foundation has shared insights into its new plans for the Pulse memorial, a month after the organization’s previous plans for a permanent memorial were abandoned. The executive director, Deborah Bowie, spoke to Spectrum News following questions raised by survivors and family members of victims of the tragedy. 

What You Need To Know

  • The OnePULSE Foundation is considering options for a permanent memorial honoring the victims of the 2016 deadly nightclub shooting

  • One possibility is to construct the memorial on adjacent property already owned by the foundation, near the nightclub. Another option involves building the memorial down the street, alongside the future site of the museum
  •  The nonprofit is also working to scale down prior plans for a museum by refurbishing a warehouse building already on the property site

  •  Utility work on the Orlando Health Survivors Walk project is expected to start in about a month

Following the tragic nightclub shooting at PULSE, plans were initially set in motion for a permanent memorial at the site; however, due to the inability to reach an agreement with the nightclub’s owners for property donation, those plans fell through.

Deborah Bowie, the executive director of the onePULSE Foundation, expressed the organization’s new approach to the memorial project. The revised plans involve scaling down the project to make it more cost-effective and inclusive for the community. Bowie emphasized the need for additional funds and community input to accomplish the project successfully.

Bowie stated, “This is an opportunity for us to revisit the project, have some realistic numbers, figure out a way that it’s more community-inclusive.”

To move forward, the foundation is considering various options. One possibility is to construct the memorial on adjacent property already owned by the foundation, near the nightclub. Another option involves building the memorial down the street, alongside the future site of the museum, which is being funded by Orange County tourist development tax grants.

Bowie said, “We are actually in the midst right now of examining our alternatives, so we have several different options we are looking at as an organization, but we also have an opportunity to poll-survey our stakeholders, which we haven’t done in quite a while.”

When asked about the funding status of the Pulse museum, Bowie acknowledged the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She mentioned that the original plan, a significant and ambitious project, was affected by the pandemic and subsequent fundraising obstacles. The estimated cost of the original museum has now risen to approximately $100 million.

“So the challenge is, and this is probably where the foundation didn’t help itself by giving a date, it’s really difficult to say, ‘Here’s the date that is going to be built.’ We had a pandemic, which really shut us down, shut everyone down and affected all of our fundraising,” Bowie said.

The OnePULSE Foundation recently submitted paperwork requesting an additional $10 million in funds from the tourist development tax to realize their new vision. Currently, the foundation has approximately $3.4 million remaining from the initial $10 million grant received from Orange County back in 2018. According to OnePULSE, $3.5 million was spent to purchase the museum property and another $3 million was spent on designs and renders that the nonprofit is now scrapping. 

Bowie responded to allegations raised by PULSE survivors and victims’ family members regarding the foundation’s handling of funds. She explained that financial documents for the nonprofit dating back to its inception are available on their website and that the organization has clean audits. Bowie also clarified that OnePULSE is not a direct service provider and does not offer rent or utility assistance. She emphasized that the foundation’s primary mission has always been to build the three capital projects, including the memorial.

“Our mission has always been to build the three capital projects,” Bowie said. “We initially raised about $125,000 and gave that money to the Compassion Spot. I was not here when that happened, but I do know that initially, when this community came together to raise $33 million for the community, all organizations were asked to please defer to the On Orlando Fund because they were the ones officially raising money and doing so without taking an administrative fee so that at that point, the foundation said we would focus on building the capital projects.” 

Utility work is expected to start in about a month on another OnePULSE capital project, the Orlando Health Survivors Walk. 

The Community Coalition Against a PULSE Museum released a statement regarding the OnePULSE Foundation’s new plans for a museum and memorial, stating:

“The OnePULSE Foundation has wasted millions in tourism tax dollars to design and develop a memorial-museum campus that will now never be built. The Foundation has not fulfilled its promise to victims/survivors or to our community and can not be trusted with spending any additional public funds. Instead of helping survivors with direct financial assistance, the Foundation’s leaders thought it best for executive salaries to be the Foundation’s largest annual expense. A public memorial park that is not owned by a private nonprofit is the right path forward. Mass shootings should never be used to promote tourism, for personal enrichment, or to advance local nonprofits at the expense of those directly impacted.”