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Developer Related Beal holds Citgo sign’s future

The Citgo Sign at sunset.
The Citgo Sign at sunset. Jonathan Wiggs/ Globe Staff/file 2007

The fate of the iconic Citgo sign now rests with Related Beal.

The development firm said Friday that it has a deal in place with Boston University to purchase the Kenmore Square building that sits under the famous sign, along with several neighboring properties along Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street.

Neither party would discuss price or plans for the site, though some development experts say the nine-building portfolio would likely work as some combination of housing and office space, with at least some new construction.

Related president Kimberly Sherman Stamler said her firm would work closely with BU, the community, and the city to decide how to redevelop the area.

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“We are thrilled to be selected to re-imagine these key parcels,” she said in a statement. “This significant location serves as a vital connection between Fenway, the Back Bay, and Brookline.”

More detailed plans could come after the sale closes, probably later this year.

In January, BU put the buildings up for sale, part of a bid to raise money for academic needs. One of them — 660 Beacon Street — houses the Citgo sign on its roof, under a lease the gasoline company has held for decades. Last month, the trade publication The Real Reporter reported that Related was in final negotiations for the site.

University officials have said they wanted a developer who would enliven that stretch of Kenmore Square and say the sign — known worldwide for its place on Boston’s skyline — adds value to the portfolio. But BU has also said it can’t require a new owner to keep it in place, and some development experts have said any new owner probably would want to build higher on at least some of the site, which could block views of the sign from some directions or lead to it being taken down.

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That has led preservationists and other fans of the sign to push for formal protections. The Boston Landmarks Commission is studying the sign as a potential historic landmark, which would grant extra layers of review of any development there. That study should be complete later this year. Any landmark designation would require the approval of Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

By the time that happens, Related Beal probably will control the site. It’s the next stage of a shift for BU, which for decades bought and improved buildings in Kenmore Square, which it considers its front door. But in recent years it has been selling property to private developers.

“Development by Related Beal will make Kenmore Square even more attractive as a venue for retail and innovation and as a livable neighborhood adjacent to a major university,” said BU president Robert Brown. “We look forward to working with Related Beal to help realize this vision.”

Related is the product of the 2013 union of New York-based development giant Related Cos., and The Beal Cos., a longtime stalwart of Boston’s building scene. Since merging, the company has taken on a number of complex projects in the city, including the redevelopment of Fidelity Investments’ former headquarters complex on Devonshire Street downtown; a below-market-rate apartment building near North Station; and the conversion of Lovejoy Wharf into a new headquarters for shoemaker Converse.

The firm has a strong record of preserving historic buildings, said Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Society.

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“We look forward to working with Related Beal to preserve the Citgo sign and hope that doing so is part of their plans,” he said. “We’re cautiously optimistic about a positive outcome.”


Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bytimlogan.