What Will Happen to the Citgo Sign?

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The Citgo sign that sits proudly above Kenmore Square is a Boston icon. It can be seen from many parts of the city, and even miles away. It serves a dual purpose in that it greets tourists to the city and also helps to orient city-dwellers. See the Citgo sign? Then you can navigate Boston very easily with it as a point of reference. It has been lighting up the lives of Bostonians unchanged since 1965, with a small break in the 70’s to conserve energy.

The beloved sign is, however, in danger. BU has sold 660 Beacon St, the signs home, and its future is up in the air so to speak:

As several prominent development companies angle to buy the nine-building package, they are weighing a delicate question: how to redevelop them — as any new owner would be likely to do — without blocking or moving the sign so it is no longer so visible from so many places around the city.

“I was not going to be ‘that developer’ who would take down the Citgo sign,” said Ted Tye, managing partner at National Development, which considered bidding for the properties but chose not to. “It’s such a symbol of Boston.”

In January, BU, which owns the six-story 660 Beacon St. and leases space on the roof to Citgo Petroleum Corp., put the building and others around it up for sale. It has received a number of bids, said a person with knowledge of the matter, and there are at least three prominent local developers still in the running as potential buyers.

BU declined to comment, as did several of the prospective bidders.

But whoever buys the buildings will face an immediate challenge: how to make the most of the investment — likely to be in the millions of dollars — without disrupting the sign or blocking views of it across the city.

Or they could face a fate even worse: being known as the person who took it down.