Pulse Nightclub, the site of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, will soon become a permanent memorial and museum to commemorate both the survivors and lives lost, its owner, Barbara Poma, announced said earlier this week. The initiative will be funded by the onePULSE foundation, a non-profit organization where Poma serves as executive director and CEO.
“Today, I’m able to share with you what I believe is news that will help in our mission of healing,” Poma said at a press gathering on Thursday. “It isn’t easy for me to stand on this site. What began as a place for fun and joy is now sacred ground.”
Prior to the shooting on June 12, 2016, Pulse operated as a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The club was capping off its “Latin Night” when the shooter, Omar Mateen, opened fire on remaining club-goers. Shortly after the shooting, Mateen swore allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call. Forty-nine people were killed and 68 were injured as a result of the attack.
Today, the site of the nightclub has developed into a makeshift memorial filled with colorful artwork, flowers, and vigils. According to The Orlando Sentinel, it is unclear whether the onePULSE foundation plans to preserve the integrity of the original building, which is currently boarded up, or design a new structure for the permanent memorial. While many construction details have yet to be made public, the foundation said Pulse will no longer exist as a nightclub.
“This project is not about replacing a building or a fun hangout for the gay community,” said Jason Felts, who serves on the memorial’s board of trustees. “This project is about healing Central Florida, the GLBT community, the Latino community.”
The foundation will begin the design process by soliciting input from survivors and victims’ families. Poma has also sought advice from those involved in the development of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, NPR reports. Jefre Manuel, a Miami artist known for his public art installations in Orlando, will head the design committee.
The memorial is scheduled to open in 2020, followed by the construction of the museum, which will contain stories and artifacts from the massacre. In the short term, the foundation plans for the memorial site to be a place of comfort and healing, Poma said in a promotional video. But in 100 years, she said, “it should be a place of education, and a place of change and remembrance.”
With plans for the memorial underway, the onePULSE foundation has also set its sights on providing financial assistance to victims of the shooting. In addition to construction costs, donations will go toward an educational fund, community grants for the victims’ families, and scholarships for the deceased.
Already, the foundation has received generous support from high-profile figures, including Andy Cohen, Ellen DeGeneres, and Lady Gaga. Lance Bass and NBA player Jason Collins also serve on the foundation’s board of trustees.