Mayor Strange discusses economic impact of EJI museum, memorial

We are learning more about the economic impact of the opening weekend of the Equal Justice Initiative's Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
We are learning more about the economic impact of the opening weekend of the Equal Justice Initiative's Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - We are learning more about the economic impact of the opening weekend of the Equal Justice Initiative's Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum.

Saza Serious Italian welcomed some big celebrities to dine-in during the grand opening of EJI's memorial and museum back in April.

"Common was here, Kirk Franklin was here, and Stevie Wonder. Business was fantastic. I would say maybe a 20 percent increase, which is really fantastic," said Jeff Tharp, Owner of SaZa.

Tharp says even though more than a month has passed business is still booming.

"The foot traffic is definitely higher," he said. "Being in the proximity where we are to the museum and ticket booth they have to walk by us."

"We have heard nothing but rave reviews about EJI and also Montgomery in general," said Mayor Todd Strange.

Mayor Strange says the events surrounding the opening looks to have paid off not only for Saza's, but for the city as a whole.

"If you do some extrapolations on the numbers what you will see is something in addition to $11 million of sales that were accomplished," said Strange.

In April the city of Montgomery saw a 33 percent increase in lodging tax revenue and sales tax revenue increased by 2 percent over last year. 8,300 more hotel rooms were booked in April than the year before.

"That in and of itself will turnover in the economy at least two or two and half percent. That is how you can get to a 20 to 25 million dollar economic impact," said Strange.

With each visitor coming and going it adds another opportunity for the city.

"They have become our new ambassadors," said Strange.

While inside the two spaces our countries darkest moments are on display, the city is glad to be part of telling this story.

"We are confronting it and facing it. We are welcoming people to have the story told. To the extent the story is told we won't repeat it," said Strange.

The mayor says EJI is still getting about 3,000 visitors per week and predicts that will continue through the summer.

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