Owner of Pulse nightclub backs out of deal to sell to city

The owner of the Pulse nightclub, where 49 people died and more than 50 others were injured in a mass shooting on June 12, has decided not to sell the nightclub to the city of Orlando, Florida.

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Owner Barbara Poma and the city negotiated a deal last month to sell the club for $2.25 million so it could be turned into a memorial. The deal needed approval from city commissioners, but they tabled the issue until early December. Some commissioners brought up concerns that the offer was much more than the land appraisal of $1.7 million and some commissioners were worried Poma was capitalizing on the tragedy.

ExploreRelated: Orlando to buy Pulse nightclub for $2.25M, turn it into memorial

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he has not spoken to Poma, but stands behind her decision, saying, "It’s their property. So I don’t have any qualms with them taking whatever necessary steps it is to do something on a more permanent basis there."

Poma told the city her decision over the weekend and released a statement Monday:

"I have decided not to sell the Pulse property. Pulse means so very much to my family and to our community, and I can't just walk away. I feel a personal obligation to ensure that a permanent space at Pulse be created so that all generations to come will remember those affected by, and taken on, June 12.

"I intend to create a space for everyone, a sanctuary of hope and a welcoming area to remember all those affected by the tragedy. I plan to do that directly with the involvement of the communities impacted by this tragedy, the families of the victims and any private or public sector individuals or organizations who wish to assist. We must do this together as a community.

"I hope the love and support we have seen through this time from around the world and here at home will continue as we join together to build a place to memorialize our angels."

Poma held a news conference Monday to explain her decision.

"This decision truly came from my heart and my passion for Pulse," Poma said. "I think the struggle was, you know, letting it go and it was something I just couldn't come to grips with," Poma said.

Commissioner Patty Sheehan said she talked to Poma and is deeply disappointed in the decision, but believes the city "messed the deal up" when commissioners tabled the issue last month.

"I think as long as it’s a memorial, I think it’s what the community wants. I think it’s what the community needs," said Poma’s friend, Eric Rollings. "I know that she’ll probably do the right thing keeping it as a memorial. I can’t imagine she would do anything else with it. I know how special this club has been to her."

The city may still plan to have a memorial in a different location, Dyer said. He said for now, the city will take a step back and wait until Poma’s plans are more finalized.

"I think it’s hard for us to say what the future will be," Poma said.

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