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Boston’s Citgo sign could become more prominent than ever under deal

Tentative agreement does mean that controversial beacon will not be landmarked

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

A tentative deal to keep Kenmore Square’s Citgo sign in place atop 660 Beacon Street could result in elevating its perch 30 feet. That same deal, though, would likely preclude the city from landmarking the sign.

Recall that the fate of the 60-foot-by-60-foot sign has been up in the air since developer Related Beal in 2016 bought several buildings in the area from Boston University—including 660 Beacon, which the Citgo sign has crowned since 1965.

The tentative deal between Related Beal, Citgo, Mayor Marty Walsh, and Boston University, which technically still owns the building, appears to clear any doubt as to the sign’s future: It is likely to remain at the same address for decades—and Citgo is likely to pay more in rent for the privilege—though it could end up raised as much as 30 feet to accommodate Related Beal’s redevelopment plans.

The lack of landmark status should make the developer happy. Related Beal and business owners in the area fought the designation because it could have created a so-called protection zone to preserve views of the sign.

The preservation of the sign’s position of prominence should make others unhappy, though, landmarking or not. They point to the autocratic Venezuelan government’s control of Citgo as reason enough to remove the sign or at least to let Related Beal’s redevelopment doom it.

The tentative deal could still fall through (obviously) and the landmarking once again advance. The Boston Landmarks Commission voted in mid-November to approve the designation. Stay tuned.