The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) met virtually on June 23, where Paul Costa presented a proposal for communications infrastructure provider Crown Castle to replace an existing concrete street light with a metal one and a small cell wireless infrastructure, including a radio cabinet and an antenna at 31 Park Drive.
Several of these types of applications have popped up all over the city in recent months and years, and the BLC hopes that there will be some sort of consistency throughout the districts for these poles to have similar designs.
“A small cell is a low powered antenna that sits on existing infrastructure…” Costa said. The purpose of the small cell is to “boost capacity and coverage” as well as speed for cellular service.
“Given the crisis with more people at home, [there is] greater demand on carrier’s networks,” he said. “Small cell is a solution…” The proposed small cell would provide more capacity for AT&T.
Costa said the proposal is to build a small cell facility on Park Drive between Queensberry and Peterborough Streets. The street light is an existing state Department of Conservation (DCR) concrete light, and will be replaced with a new metal street light similar to other metal ones along Park Drive. He also said the equipment is similar to what Crown Castle has installed in other parts of the city.
The pole will include a gray shroud, and further up the pole is where the 10 inch antenna will be located. An LED street light will also be located at the top of the pole, and the other equipment will be attached to the side of the pole. To provide power and fiber to the pole, the street mist be dug into, and Costa showed the dig plan for the area.
“I like the simplicity of it,” said Commissioner David Berarducci, but added that it “might be odd having it be the one and only out here.”
Costa said that “this is our design and what has been agreed upon with DCR.” This pole is not under the jurisdiction of the City of Boston, but the City does have a license agreement with Crown Castle and has approved this antenna design in other locations, he said.
“The concern is we see a fair number of these in different parts of town,” Commissioner Brad Walker said, adding that different vendors propose different designs. “We want to maintain some sort of consistency in the public realm,” he said. “Is another vendor representing Verizon going to want to put one 500 feet away with a different design?”
Costa said that Crown Castle is also guided by DCR’s design guidelines and had submitted four different designs to DCR. “They liked three and nixed one of them,” Costa said.
“I would like to know that this is what’s going to be replacing all the other lights eventually so we don’t keep having these anomalies all over the place,” Berarducci said. “If it’s going to be a precedent, would we not want to choose a color that would be the precedent for all the other lights? The point is to try and blend these in with the other light poles on the street.”
The Commissioners agreed that they would like to know if DCR has plans for the region, or more specifically, for the Fens. Joe Cornish, Director of Design Review for the Boston Landmarks Commission, said he would he happy to check with the DCR on this.
Cornish did add that for the City owned light poles, only replacement in-kind is allowed. The Commissioners said they also hope to get more information about whether the DCR has a “consistent plan” for other vendors coming in and asking to replace light poles with this equipment.
There was no vote to approve or deny this project. It is continued to next month’s meeting, where the Commissioners hope to have more information from DCR about their future plans for lighting in the area.