New Light Pole Antennas to Line South End Streets

By Beth Treffeisen

Coming soon to the South End, 25 distributed antenna systems or DAS nodes will line various streets, adding antennas to the tops of otherwise mundane standard Boston street lights.

During the August South End Landmarks Commission meeting, an unanimous approval of the DAS nodes that will line mostly Tremont Street and Columbus Avenue, will allow the four wireless carriers in Boston to extend data coverage in an otherwise overloaded system.

“They will allow the wireless networks to off load data traffic so that they can still have reliable coverage,” said Ricardo Sousa the attorney for Prince Lobel law firm. “And it is especially necessary in cities.”

The DAS nodes will be painted all black, with the radio cabinets hidden below in a base and the antenna extended upwards from the LED light poles. All of the original light poles will have to be replaced for it to be structurally sound.

“There is very little you can do to change the design,” said Sousa but he said he has been working with various city offices to come up with the sleekest design.

Other DAS that can be spotted around the city have the radio cabinet on the pole with the antennas on top, which is a lot more visible than the proposed design for the South End.

None of the light poles are ornamental such as the acorn styled ones. They haven’t developed a suitable design for those yet but Sousa said, “It won’t be long until we have to.”

Sousa said they already have existing DAS nodes in the Back Bay and after placing them in the South End hope to bring them to Beacon Hill as well.

“The demand for data usage continue to go up,” said Sousa. “It’s hard to know what the future will look like but it does look like it is going up. We think we are keeping up and we hope to continue to in the future.”

Once the DAS nodes are installed they will sell the infrastructure to the carriers who will then take space within the antenna nodes.

Later in the meeting, a tied vote over the addition of a larger head house structure at 3 Haven Street left the architects in limbo as they continue to work out their design plans as a motion to approve the concept and add a subcommittee to work out changes was formed.

The vote tied due to Commissioner Peter Sanborn sitting out due to conflicting interests.

“Haven Street is a hodgepodge of houses,” said Commissioner Catherine Hunt. “I walked around and looked at the street and it’s so precious and unique that I think it would change it.”

The proposed plan was to replace the current 60 square foot head house structure with a 350 square foot structure that would add a living space to the third floor.

The plans hoped to mitigate the change and feel of the structure by lowering the ceiling on the second floor and restructuring the entire roof.

Concerns about it adding to what some Commissioners were considering as a third floor to a street made up of two and half story houses, along with visibility of the addition from streets behind the small neighborhood road left the Commissioners questioning the design.

“I always believed there was a way to do it but after the site visit I didn’t think it was possible but now I’m encouraged,” said Commissioner John Freeman after looking at the new design plans. “Looking at pent houses we have approved, this isn’t quite there yet, but it can get there.”

Another concern brought up by the Commissioners was that this addition was going to start a precedent that would allow other small houses on the street to do the same, altering the streetscape.

The addition of the pent-house comes from the family that currently resides there that have a three and five-year-old that are quickly out-growing the small house.

Concerned neighbors joined the meeting to share their support of keeping the current family in the house.

“I’ve lived on the street for nearly 13 years with my family,” said Ann, a resident of Haven Street. “We lost two families that had two children and tean had a third and moved away.”

As a small neighborhood made up of families, residents voiced their concern of high turn over in the small house.

“If it’s not them, someone else will come and ask you,” said Ann to the Commissioners.

As of the meeting, they are unsure what happens if a tie occurs, but the group was denied without prejudice, allowing them to continue work with the sub committee to further develop the design that can be brought back at next month’s meeting.

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