Questions Remain on CITGO Sign Landmark Report

At the heart of Kenmore Square is one of the most recognizable structures in Boston: The CITGO sign. Whether you’re a Red Sox fan at Fenway Park or a Boston University student walking down Commonwealth Avenue, it’s an icon that’s hard to miss.

Since receiving a preliminary landmark status in 2016, the sign has yet to become a permanent landmark, although it is finally approaching its last stages. The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) subcommittee held a meeting to review the draft of the Landmark study report for the sign on Monday, June 4.

At the end of evening, questions still remained.

The meeting’s goals were to finalize the study report to allow its presentation to the public at a future BLC meeting, and for the subcommittee to make a recommendation to the BLC to request a study committee to the establish the sign’s protection area, subcommittee member Lynn Smiledge said.

While the newest draft did not bring significant changes, among the changes is the removal of a protection area from the draft. Establishment of the protection area requires a different process that calls for a study committee, which currently does not exist, Smiledge said.

The CITGO sign offers a unique situation, however, given that the potential landmark is a sign as opposed to a building. As its current residence, 660 Beacon St., will not be a landmark of its own, the building could hypothetically become a parking lot, which would then destroy the purpose of landmarking the sign: its visibility.

By subjecting to review the changes to 660 Beacon St. building that may impact the visibility of the sign, the subcommittee has unintentionally de facto landmarked the building, said a Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) employee.

“The goal here is to maintain the prominence in the skyline,” he said.

After the discussion, the subcommittee suggested that the study report makes appropriate changes—including calling for the sign to be maintained at a certain height from the ground level, rather than the existing suggestion which requires the sign to “maintain its current height of 41 feet from rooftop to bottom of sign.”

Another question at hand: Who will be held accountable for the maintenance of the structure?

BLC Executive Director Rosanne Foley said the commission would issue violations to careless owners, and if the situation gets to a point where nothing is handled, the commission would have to figure out next steps. When asked about the potential next step, Foley offered one answer: “No idea.”

“If it’s a landmark, it’s there. You can’t remove it,” said Terri North, president of the Kenmore Residents Group. “It would have to look like an eyesore forever.”

More questions remained at the end of the evening, as some attendees asked if the reasons BLC’s 1982 denial to landmark the sign have been overlooked. Logistically, the subcommittee’s study, developer Related Beal and Citgo had different measurements of the sign.

The subcommittee agreed that it will put the draft forward to the full BLC committee with the changes it agreed upon. The deadline for additional comments is Monday, June 18. Any comments already received by the staff will be considered.

The full BLC commission hearing will be held on the fourth Tuesday of the month, June 26.

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