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Boston’s Citgo sign inches toward controversial landmark status

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It’s up to Mayor Marty Walsh and the City Council now

A row of various city buildings on a block in Boston. Above one of the buildings is a sign that reads: Citgo. There is a street in front of the buildings with cars. Victor Maschek/Shutterstock

The Boston Landmarks Commission has voted to approve landmark status for Kenmore Square’s Citgo sign, moving the beacon that much closer toward extra protections should a developer want to move or alter it.

It’s now up to Mayor Marty Walsh and the City Council, who have 45 days from the commission’s November 13 vote to seal the landmark status. Walsh for his part has yet to publicly disclose whether he supports such a status, per the Globe’s Tim Logan.

The move toward landmarking was born of a major Kenmore Square development that some worried would doom the the 60-foot-by-60-foot sign that has bestrode 660 Beacon Street since 1965.

Developer Related Beal two years ago bought several buildings in the area from Boston University—including 660 Beacon. The developer is negotiating a longterm lease for the sign with the oil company behind it as part of a larger development plan, one that would leave it atop 660 Beacon.

Related Beal does not support landmarking the sign nor do some business owners in Kenmore. It’s not that it isn’t worth preserving, they say, it’s that regulations tied to such preservation could create a so-called protection zone to preserve views of it, too.

Then there are those opposed to the sign itself as an unmistakable symbol of Boston. That is because the Venezuelan government controls Citgo.

“Citgo profits support a government that starves its people,” wrote Globe editorial writer Marcela García in mid-October. “Boston needs to find a way to stop celebrating Citgo and get real about the sign. It doesn’t need to be dismantled. But it does need to be changed.”

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