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Orlando to buy Pulse nightclub site to build memorial after emotional pleas from shooting survivors

The city of Orlando voted on Monday to purchase the Pulse nightclub property, more than seven years after a mass shooting there left 49 people dead, and in response to calls from victims’ families and survivors of the massacre to build a permanent memorial at the site.

Following previous failed attempts to buy the land, where the Pulse building now stands unused and surrounded by a temporary display honoring victims, city officials in Orlando approved a deal this week to secure the property for $2 million.

For years, families of the 49 people killed in the massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub, have pushed for a permanent public memorial commemorating victims at the site of one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history. Survivors have called for the same, although some, like Maritza Gomez, also argue that focusing resources on the investigation into what really happened that night should be a priority.

“I lived that night, but it’s a constant sacrifice to keep moving everyday,” Gomez told CBS affiliateWKMG-TV. “I don’t think that Pulse should be diminished. I think that an investigation should be taken care of first.”

The accused attacker, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, was shot and killed by police on the night of the massacre, June 12, 2016. Despite investigations involving multiple state and federal agencies after the fact, questions remain as to whether the shooting, which the FBI considers a terror attack, was a hate crime, or something else.

But the promise of a permanent memorial at the site of the tragedy is still important to Pulse shooting survivors and loved ones of the victims. One person, who was not identified by name, told WKMG-TV, “For me specifically it is a place to keep me close to my baby. We needed a place to honor our loved ones.”

Orlando Torres, a survivor, told the station, “I’m glad that they looked after us and put this to a rest and at ease.”

The onePulse Foundation also released a statement last week, ahead of Monday’s official vote, that praised city officials for their then-expected approval of the $2 million deal.

“We are thankful to the City of Orlando for ensuring that the National Pulse Memorial will be located at the Pulse nightclub site, which was always the hope of families of the 49 victims and the Pulse-impacted community,” the statement read. “We look forward to being a part of the discussion with the City of Orlando as this moves forward.”

The city initially tried to purchase it at a slightly higher price — $2.2 million — several years ago, but the property owners decided not to sell it. Instead, they createdonePulse Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization aiming to fund the construction of a Pulse memorial and museum as well as educational programs and scholarships, according to its website.

Pulse owner Barbara Poma cut ties with the foundation earlier this year, and onePulse started to explore building a permanent memorial and museum at a different site, after Poma’s investment partner declined to donate the nightclub property, CBS affiliate WKMG-TV reported. Earlier this year, the foundation ended its lease on the Pulse property, where the temporary interim memorial has been established.

Documents outlining the contract between the city of Orlando and Pulse owners say the purchasing deal will close on Nov. 10. A timeline or specific plans for building a permanent memorial have not been finalized yet.

“What I ensure is the first step and that’s acquiring and having control of the property,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said last week. “After that, we want to step back and decide what is the best approach to ensure that in fact, we build that memorial in a way to honor the survivors and the families and the victims and to make sure that we get input from that same group as to what the best way to go about that is.”

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