Almost An Official Landmark:Petition to Designate Citgo Sign Gets Unanimous Nod from Commission

By Beth Treffeisen

The red, white, and blue LED lights that make up the famous CITGO sign in Kenmore Square may soon continue to shine as an official landmark.

On Tuesday, the Boston Landmarks Commission voted unanimously to accept the petition submitted by one of the commissioners to make sure that the sign stays a part of the Boston skyline.

This petition comes after Boston University announced this past January that it is seeking to sell the building on top of which the sign sits. The building itself is not up for landmark status.

The next step is to produce a study report that will examine the history and significance of the sign in more detail. It is expected to take between three to six months to be completed.

“It is a symbol of 1960’s pop art,” said Arthur Krim an architectural historian at Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s that kinetic energy that holds the sign in it’s own status to public art.”

To be designated, the sign must receive a 2/3-majority vote from the Commission and be confirmed by the Mayor of Boston and by the City Council.

If the property is designated a landmark, it will not further prevent development but, any physical changes will have to be subject to review by the commission before they are undertaken.

“Although it belongs to us – it really belongs with Boston,” said spokeswoman Brenda Rivera for CITGO at the meeting. “We are really humbled by the community outpouring.”

This is not the first time that the 60 feet by 60 feet sign that looms over Boston’s Fenway Park area has been considered for landmark status. In 1983 the Commission denied landmark status to the sign with a 9-1 vote due to complex issues surrounding designation at the time.

Now that the sign is reaching 50-years-old, Krim who was surprised to be standing in front of the Commission again all these years later, has renewed faith that the sign will gain it’s own status as public art.

“Others have said described it as  – miraculous, spectacular, compelling – all that settles the sign’s significance as the iconic beacon on Boston’s skyline,” Krim said.

Erika Tarlin a Boston-raised and now Somerville resident pointing to the multiple historic sites that make up the hub said, “There are many quirky things that make Boston, Boston.”

She added by saying there are many parts of the skyline that deserve protection. Tarlin said, “It would be a shame to lose it to a real-estate development deal.”

Greg Galer the executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance pointed to an online petition that has gained over 5,000 signatures so far of people in support of land marking the sign. He stated that they have garnered numerous positive comments both from here and from the around globe.

Galer said, “One flicker of the sign – its Boston.”

The CITGO Petroleum Corporation  currently owns the sign at 660 Beacon Street that is now a pending landmark.

Citgo sign on the evening of Tuesday, July 12, 2016, over-looking Kenmore Square.

Citgo sign on the evening of Tuesday, July 12, 2016, over-looking Kenmore Square.

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