by Danny McCarthy
Photography by Ashley Griffin
The Citgo sign in Kenmore Square, thought by some to be emblematic of Boston, will remain in its place for “decades to come,” according to Kimberly Sherman Stamler, president of Related Beal, the company that purchased Kenmore Square buildings from Boston University last year. The old lease officially expires on March 31, 2017.
Tension arose when the lease for the sign was up in late February. According to reporting done by The Boston Globe, Beal tried to renegotiate the terms of the lease. She wanted the company to pay ten times more than the current lease terms of $250,000. Citgo countered with an offer of $500,000, launching a public campaign to rally support and becoming a sponsor of the Boston Marathon. With Mayor Walsh as a mediator, the two sides agreed to extend the lease to March 31.
“I thought it was ridiculous that it was even a discussion,” said Claire Ertel (CAS ’17). The Citgo sign operated as a guidepost for Ertel. “I'm so bad with directions and I would be stumbling around lost and then see the sign and just follow it back to campus.”
While the Citgo sign is an icon of the city, it is not an official landmark, which would offer it certain protections. Any decision to include the Citgo sign as a landmark would have to go through the Boston Landmark Commission and then be signed off by Mayor Walsh.
For Boston University students, however, the sign is already a cultural landmark.
“It’s like the North Star of Boston,” said Julia Metjian (COM ’17), a lifelong Boston resident. “It’s been a symbol for me my whole life and means a lot to the city.”
The sale of the Kenmore properties by BU to the New York-based Beal for $134 million was a part of a larger plan to revitalize the area and raise capital for the university. The move was a part of BU’s platform to up the university’s academic standing with new buildings such as the Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering, a research facility on Commonwealth Ave, the recently completed Engineering Product Innovation Lab and the new theatre next to the 808 Gallery.
In a statement from BU Today, BU President Robert A. Brown said, “The sale of the properties in what we have called the North Parcel to Related Beal as initiated the next stage of the development of the square.” Development would create more interest in the square, driving “retail and innovation” to the location and overall improving the neighborhood.
The buildings sold to Related Beal include 660 Beacon Street, the current location of the Barnes & Noble at the BU Bookstore, and the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. For two years after the sale the company will lease out property to BU while it decides whether to relocate certain services or remain a tenant in the square, according to Gary Nicksa, BU senior vice president for operations, in the same press release.