Orlando to turn Pulse nightclub, site of the deadliest US mass shooting, into a memorial

The Pulse night club sign is pictured through a fence following the mass shooting there in Orlando, Florida on June 21, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

ORLANDO (NYTIMES) - The city of Orlando, Florida, announced plans this week to purchase the Pulse Nightclub, the site of the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, and turn it into a memorial.

The popular gay club has been empty since June 12, when a gunman opened fire during a Latin-themed dance party, killing 49 people and wounding dozens more. The gunman was shot and killed in a shootout with the police, ending the siege.

Mr Buddy Dyer, the mayor of Orlando, said that it was important for the city to take control of the site to ensure that those killed and injured were properly honoured.

"It has great significance not just for the LGBTQ community and for the Hispanic community but for all of us that live and love Orlando," Mr Dyer said in a video statement posted on Twitter. "I think it is very important that city take control of the site."

He said that the city was not sure what kind of memorial it wanted to create and that for the next 12 to 18 months the site would be left untouched "so that people from around the country and world that want to visit the site can do so".

Since the massacre, the 4,500 sq ft building and the sign outside with the Pulse logo has drawn tourists from around the world and has also been visited by local and national politicians, including Mrs Hillary Clinton.

Mr Dyer said that he would solicit suggestions from the community and activists about the best way to proceed with creating a memorial.

The city and the owner of the club have agreed to a purchase price of US$2.25 million (S$3.12 million). The City Council, which must approve the purchase, is expected to vote on the matter on Monday (Nov 7).

The director of the GLBT Center of Central Florida, Mr Terry DeCarlo, praised the purchase in a statement.

"We are ecstatic that the city of Orlando bought the property," he said. "Now work can begin on what the permanent memorial will look like with input from the community and other memorial sites such as the 9/11 museum and others. It will be a 12- to 18-month process, but we are sure it will turn out to be something not only Orlando, but the world will be proud of and want to come visit and pay their respects."

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