by Eden Marcus
Photography by Kelsey Cronin
In a 40-year attempt to improve Kenmore Square, Boston University has hired a broker to sell buildings in the area. This includes the BU Bookstore, which is also the site of the iconic Citgo sign.
This isn’t BU’s first effort to improve campus. Three years ago, BU sold Hotel Commonwealth in its attempt to make Kenmore Square more vibrant. According to President Brown, these sales raise money for BU to invest in its core values—teaching, research and the safety of students.
Colin Riley, Executive Director of Media Relations for Boston University, said that reactions to the sale differ depending on the audience. The University has responded well because “they are more knowledgeable about it—there is a purpose to it: to transform the University and make it safer for students.” Riley, as a BU spokesman, was involved in the sale of some Kenmore properties.
“When you market properties for sale, a lot of questions that arise are for the potential buyer, not me—if we sell, we aren’t going to do anything, the buyer will,” Riley said, as a preface before the interview.
Lauren Jepsky (CAS ’18), a student and resident of Danielson Hall living east of Kenmore Square, had a positive reaction to the sale.
“I personally think that the sale might not be that bad of an idea. BU would be working with the firms, submitting the proposals for what they would put in Kenmore, so it would still be a BU affiliated area, but might have the opportunity to be a more vibrant part of Boston,” she said.
Jepsky resonated with the “positive city building” aspect of the project.
“Living in Danielson, I walk through Kenmore every day, and while it is a pleasant area, there’s nothing extremely exciting about it except for the iconic Citgo sign. Selling some properties in Kenmore could make this area a more appealing place to be, possibly attracting prospective students even more to BU by making them feel even more connected with the city of Boston,” Jepsky continued.
The experience of studying within the city is a large draw for both potential and current BU students. Students here come for both a college and “real world” experience. The Kenmore properties sale would further engross the University, and its students, with Boston.
Josh Jacobson (Questrom ’17) had a more negative reaction to the sale, fearing that the sale favors improving the Kenmore area over the preservation of iconic locations, such as the Citgo Sign and the BU Barnes and Noble.
“I would be more open to this plan from the university if I had more of an idea what was replacing these establishments, as well as what exactly the school plans on using the capital for,” he said.
Jacobson attributes the presence of a Barnes and Noble on the university’s campus as a large value-add for students, as well as families visiting the school—something that the sale would replace.
“[Barnes and Noble] provides a central location to purchase textbooks, as well as BU gear. Although textbooks can be purchased online from other retailers, students use Barnes and Noble often to pick up books and losing this forces everyone to move to places like Chegg or Amazon. The convenience of a bookstore so close by will be erased,” Jacobson continued.
The project has been in development for longer than most current BU students have been alive, part of the city’s plan for positive development. And while creating a more appealing Kenmore Square could potentially draw more tourism and foot traffic, as well as integrate BU even further into Boston, for BU students, it’s also saying goodbye to two landmarks.