Kenmore Changes Won’t Impact Iconic Citgo Sign

In 10 years, Boston’s Kenmore Square will be transformed. However, the Citgo sign, a hard to miss landmark, will remain untouched.

Tim Czerwienski, a project manager in development review for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), will oversee two major projects in the Kenmore Square area. The first project will include demolishing the buildings from 533 to 541 Commonwealth Avenue and replacing them with an eight-story, 130,000 square foot building. 

The development will also include a new, seven-story office building in the place of 650, 652 and 656 Beacon Street. Although the development will take months to complete, Czerwinski describes the product as “not a lot of dramatic change.”

Related Beal, a developer hired by BPDA, owns the buildings that will be demolished, while Boston University owns the land these buildings sit on.

The Citgo sign has stood in the Kenmore square area of the city since 1940 atop 660 Beacon Street. The BPDA, which sets the measurements of the buildings through zoning codes, will work around the Citgo sign by keeping buildings below it. Recognizing the significance the sign has on the Boston landscape, city government, Related Beal, and Boston University will seek to preserve it, according to a joint statement.

“Is it an advertisement for a gas company? That’s what it is,” Czerwienski said. “But what it really is is the thing that marks Kenmore Square, Fenway Park. The value in that is being able to see it.”

Boston residents feel emotional attachments to the sign, which has illuminated the area since 1983 when lighting was added.

“I’ve been going to games since I was 10 years old, and the Citgo sign has always been a backdrop of Fenway Park,” said John Ovesen, a program seller for the Boston Red Sox in Kenmore Square. “If they took it down, it would be weird.”

A former Boston resident who wished to remain anonymous said, “The Citgo sign is like a lighthouse to Fenway Park. They see the sign and know they are going the right way.”

Boston University is a major influence in the area. Czerwienski said the institution has been the primary voice in developing the Kenmore area. Although Boston University students frequent the area, Czerwienski is confident in the school’s administration.

“We trust the institution to use the interests of the students. They are the ones that pay the bills,” Czerwienski said.   

The BPDA is also planning a project to create a plaza in the intersection of Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue, which includes a hotel tentatively called “Kenmore Hotel.” 

The current intersection creates problems for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, but with a plaza, Czerwienski said, a triangular-like rotary will ease traffic while bringing the community closer together. Red Sox fans will now have a meeting place before games rather than “meeting on the corner.”

In planning Kenmore Square, Czerwienski said the agency hopes to develop the area economically.

“We need to build housing because there’s a housing crisis in the Commonwealth and we need to do our part,” Czerwienski said. “We also need to grow our economy and build jobs.”

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