The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Plaza, created overnight, is now a permanent multimillion-dollar concrete installation

City workers repaint Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street on Oct. 12, following the removal of the lettering for a construction project. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images)

More than a year after Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s overnight order — having “Black Lives Matter” painted in massive yellow letters on the street leading up to the White House, in the middle of a tense confrontation between President Donald Trump and racial justice protesters — the street outside the White House now has those words permanently etched in concrete.

Bowser renamed the street in the summer of 2020, but the yellow letters weren’t meant to last. Now, the 48-foot-tall letters are poured in the street.

For months, the multilane street was closed to car traffic. During that time, it became a site of protests, celebrations, performances, yoga classes and more. But businesses on the street also asked when they would be able to have cars drive up to their doors again.

Cars were allowed back on the street earlier this year, and Bowser said on Thursday that the city has completed construction to allow a more durable compromise: one lane for traffic on each side of the road, with a 14-foot-wide pedestrian zone in the center of the road for visitors to take in the giant letters.

The street drew national attention on the day it was first painted and has since become a tourist destination for visitors to Washington. Bowser’s office said on Thursday that the construction has cost $4.8 million so far, and plans to install benches, lighting, signs, trees and other amenities will eventually cost another $3 million.

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