Local

OnePULSE Foundation scraps museum plans worth $6.5 million of Orange County funding

ORLANDO, Fla. — The onePULSE Foundation sent a letter to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings on Friday stating it will no longer be building a museum. The foundation made this decision after receiving and spending millions of tourism development tax dollars.

WATCH CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS

Forty-nine people were killed seven years ago inside the Pulse nightclub on South Orange Avenue.

Some victims’ families and survivors have been against the museum from the start, saying it was just another way for the nightclub owner and foundation to profit off the massacre.

$6.5 million of tourism tax money was wasted after the onePULSE Foundation realized it would never be able to build the museum it promised.

That museum is also the main reason the foundation was created.

Read: onePULSE Foundation to forgo plans for Pulse museum

Norman Casiano was inside the club the night of the shooting. He was shot multiple times in the lower back.

“What I went through inside, I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” Casiano said.

It’s a night that some survivors relive daily.

Joshua Hernandez was inside the bathroom; he was shot multiple times.

“One in the left arm and another one here and it affected four of my organs,” Hernandez said. “(They) had to be reconstructed.”

Hernandez still has a bullet stuck in his back. He moved to Puerto Rico after the shooting to get away from the trauma.

Read: Plans for OnePULSE museum unclear amid city’s purchase of Pulse property

He told Channel 9 that victims’ families and survivors can’t be provided with a museum for tourists.

“Took a chance from massacre to make themselves rich,” Hernandez said.

Casiano’s tailbone was shot off, and he was left partially paralyzed.

“A museum felt like they were exploiting us,” Casiano said. “[It] felt like the foundation and Barbara Poma were exploiting us.”

Five years ago, the county gave the foundation $10 million in tourism tax funds. The county found the foundation’s plans were viable. Channel 9 spoke to Mayor Demings after he received the foundations’ letter stating it’s no longer building the museum.

“(It) has not gone how we all wished it would have gone,” Demings said.

A total of $6.5 million was paid out for the land at 438 West Kaley Street and design costs for the museum.

“(It) reached a critical point where changes have to be made,” Demings said.

The foundation claims after spending the $6.5 million dollars, it can no longer build the museum it planned to build, citing COVID fundraising challenges and rising construction costs.

“A lot of uncertainty with the future of (the) onePULSE Foundation,” Demings said.

Hernandez and Casiano said the foundation never listened to what the survivors wanted and feel the foundation was focused on profits.

“We would want onePULSE and the foundation started by Barbara Poma to just dissolve,” Casiano said.

The land the foundation bought will be returned to the county. If sold, the proceeds will be returned to the TDT reserves.

The rest of the $3 million spent by the foundation on design work cannot be recovered.

Read: Orlando City Council approves $2 million purchase of Pulse Nightclub property

The mayor says there will be a Board of County Commission meeting next week to discuss next steps.

The museum was separate from plans to put a memorial at the site of the Pulse nightclub.

The city of Orlando finalized the deal to purchase the Pulse nightclub property today.

City officials have yet to decide what the memorial will look like when it will be built, and it is unclear what role, if any, onePULSE will have in the Pulse memorial.

Click here to download our free news, weather and smart TV apps. And click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.