Urban Design

The Boston Planning & Development Agency recognizes that storefronts and signage significantly shape the character of a given district. To that end, the BPDA and the City of Boston have created regulations and guidelines to ensure that storefronts and signage complement the surrounding neighborhood while still allowing business owners to express their individuality and promote their goods and services. 

Storefront and signage guidelines vary widely depending on geographic location and other factors. Please see below for more information on sign guidelines, regulations, and procedures which may apply to your business. Additionally, many signs in commercial areas of the city are subject to BPDA design review.

  • Adding a new sign requires a Long Form Permit from the City of Boston's Inspectional Services Department (ISD) and may trigger BPDA Design review.
  • Replacing an existing sign requires a Short Form Permit from ISD and may trigger BPDA Design review.
  • If your building is in a Main Streets District, your sign should be reviewed by the local Main Streets organization. For more information visit Boston Main Streets.
  • If your building is in a Special Zoning Overlay District, the sign or canopy must be reviewed by the BPDA Zoning and Urban Design departments. To determine whether your property lies in a Special Zoning Overlay District, use the Zoning Viewer.
  • Historic Districts have their own specific regulations regarding signs, canopies, awnings, and storefronts. Information about Historic Districts can be found in the table below.
For more information on signage, please contact Michael Cannizzo, Senior Architect/Urban Designer, by email or by telephone at 617.918.4386.
Boston Signage Districts
District Neighborhood
Aberdeen Historic District Brighton
Back Back Architectural District (Residential) Back Bay
Back Bay Architectural District (Commercial) Back Bay
Bay State Road/Back Bay West Architectural Conservation District Fenway
Downtown Crossing Signage Guidelines
Quick Reference Guide to Signage in Downtown Crossing
Downtown
Bay Village Historic District Bay Village
Historic Beacon Hill District Beacon Hill
Fort Point Channel Landmark District South Boston Waterfront
Mission Hill triangle Architectural Conservation District Mission Hill
South End Landmark District South End
St. Botolph Architectural Conservation District South End

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