The onePULSE Foundation will cease management of the temporary Pulse memorial on the site of a former nightclub as it seeks to settle a permit issue with the site’s owners.
The nonprofit said Thursday that officials recently learned that the City of Orlando’s permit to use the property expired in May 2022.
Deborah Bowie, the foundation’s chief executive, said that without a valid temporary use permit, the foundation cannot legally operate the former club on South Orange Avenue.
“This is worrying because it opens up the fund to significant risk and liability,” she told the Florida Today News. “If there is no permit, there is no lease.”
The temporary use permit was issued in 2018, with three one-year extensions proposed, Bowie said.
On Wednesday, the onePULSE Foundation, through its legal advisor, sent an email to nightclub property owners announcing that it would stop paying monthly operating expenses on August 31st. He added that the fund would pay pro rata property tax for the current year to ensure a “smooth transition in management.”
A spokesperson for Barbara Poma, the co-owner of the property and a former chief executive of the fund, said it was the fund’s responsibility to renew the permit in accordance with the lease.
Meanwhile, the fund said property owners are responsible for renewing the permit to comply with the lease agreement, which runs through April next year.
Until then, the lease remains contentious, leaving the future of the temporary memorial and items such as its 150-yard photo wall, which displays Pulse vigils and LGBTQ art, uncertain.
Regarding temporary use permit extensions, Orlando spokesperson Ashley Papagni said that “such extension requests required the consent of the property owners.”
In a prepared statement, the Poms said they were disappointed with the fund’s decision.
“It is disappointing that the onePULSE Foundation has decided to completely abandon all of its responsibilities to the existing and future memorial, instead of using a collaborative approach to find a thoughtful transition to managing the site,” it said in a statement.
“We will assess the condition of the facility to determine the next steps.”
The property’s third owner, Michael Panagio, a Daytona Beach businessman, was not immediately available for comment.
The onePULSE Foundation stated that its members were not aware of the expired permit because it was a property owner issue.
Organization officials are planning to build a new memorial and museum in Orlando’s Sodo neighborhood to honor the 49 lives lost in the 2016 Pulse massacre.
The plans were scaled back and changed after Bowie said board members learned the previously sought-after Orlando-based project, designed by Coldefy and HHCP Architects, could cost up to $100 million to build in 2019.
A piece of the nightclub property was intended to be donated, but plans fell through after the foundation announced it had not reached an agreement with the property owners.
“Following unsuccessful negotiations with the property owners to fully transfer ownership of the nightclub, Pulse onePULSE does not have the legal authority to operate the site and to provide its day-to-day care and security,” the foundation said in a statement. “Therefore, these matters have now become the sole responsibility of property owners.”