While efforts to build the National Pulse Memorial and Museum at the site of the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, are moving forward, certain LGBTQ activists, survivors, and loved ones of victims are voicing opposition to the plan. Last month, organizers who are against the onePULSE Foundation’s initiative to establish the museum formed the Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum (CCAPM), which aims to develop an alternative vision for how to remember the victims of the deadliest anti-LGBTQ act of violence in U.S. history.
As AN reported earlier this year, six major architecture firms have already been shortlisted from an initial 68 submissions for onePULSE’s international design competition. The finalists include Diller Scofidio + Renfro, MASS Design Group, MVRDV, and Studio Libeskind. While no winner has been announced yet, the process of soliciting proposals and selecting the designer has progressed steadily since the shooting in June 2016. The foundation’s plan for the site includes using the original nightclub building and constructing an additional 30,000-square-foot museum nearby. There is also an effort to integrate the memorial and museum into a broader urban design plan that would connect the former nightclub to downtown Orlando. If this is executed, visitors will be able to walk along the planned Orlando Health Survivors Walk, leading them to various sites involved in the aftermath of the shooting.
As for CCAPM, activists argue that funds used for the construction of the museum building should be directed towards victims’ families and survivors of the incident, not towards a tourist attraction. According to the organization’s website, opponents of the construction project maintain that: “All funds raised should be used to expand existing services and ensure that all survivors get the financial support, medical services, community support programs, and mental health care they need for life.”
The museum is expected to cost $45 million, including $40 million in construction costs and additional funds for staff salaries. As the Orlando Sentinel reported earlier this summer, onePULSE’s proposed budget includes a $150,000 annual salary for Barbara Poma, who established the Pulse nightclub in 2004 in memory of her brother, a victim of the AIDS epidemic. Poma is now the CEO of the onePULSE foundation.
With an exhibition of the proposed designs set to open at the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando this October, there is no sign that onePULSE will significantly alter its plan to construct the museum. According to NBC News, the foundation responded to continuing allegations that it is profiting off of victims’ traumatic experiences by assuring that it is listening to all concerns closely: “We respect the thoughts and opinions of everyone in the community who was affected by this tragic event and are taking them all into consideration on how we move forward.”
The memorial and museum are slated to officially open in 2022.