City commission votes to give Citgo sign landmark status

Kenmore Square Citgo sign (Henry Han / Wikimedia Commons)

By Ellie French
Boston University Statehouse Program

This article was originally published in the Boston Business Journal.

Kenmore Square’s Citgo sign will soon go from Boston icon to landmark.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday evening, the Boston Landmark Commission approved the sign’s new status. Following a 45-day veto period for Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the City Council, the sign will become the city’s latest official landmark.

Though the vote came less than 10 minutes after the meeting began, it was the culmination of a discussion more than two years in the making. Ultimately, more than 16,000 signatures from city residents backed the designation.

“We believe the Citgo sign is an iconic symbol of Boston, a beacon, a true landmark in every sense of the word,” said Allison Frazee, the director of advocacy for the Boston Preservation Alliance. “The sign clearly meets the standard for designation. We know that there are some lingering concerns, and we are confident there are solutions that we can work through, but the first step is to protect the sign.”

But with Kenmore Square on the brink of redevelopmentRelated Beal, owner of the building on which the sign sits, disagreed. The company expressed concerns about whether the status would stifle the area’s development, force Related Beal to engage in commercial speech, and provide free advertising for Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of a Venezuelan oil company.

At an October meeting, a 51-page report supported official landmark designation. After reviewing the report, and all of the public comments, the commission decided to reverse its vote from several years ago.

In the coming days, the commission said it will notify the property owners and other interested groups, and then create a document with details about the property and the vote to send to the city clerk.

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