Planned tower raises aesthetic concerns

by Rick Saf

A 150-foot tower that might be built on the east bank of the Mississippi, just west of the Interstate 35W bridge and the East Bank campus, is a cause for concern to some nearby residents.
Members of the Sixth Avenue Gateway Committee, a neighborhood group, said they were concerned that the cellular phone tower would affect the beauty of the area. They met with AT&T Wireless Service officials Wednesday to discuss their worries.
AT&T spokesperson Max Thompson said the tower, which would receive and transmit radio waves for cellular phones, couldn’t be placed elsewhere.
“This new tower is needed due to network overload and to improve existing service to the northern and eastern suburbs,” Thompson said. He added that if it were placed on the west bank of the river, the tower could not serve the suburbs and downtown Minneapolis.
Many students in the area were unaware the tower might be built, and those who did know said they weren’t opposed to its construction. Student housing lies north of the proposed site, so the tower might become part of the scenery for many University students.
In hopes of avoiding what is perceived as “visual clutter,” one member of the neighborhood committee suggested using one of the large utility poles in the area but the idea was quickly dismissed.
The committee also expressed interest in working with AT&T on the cosmetic appearance of the tower and a building that will be built to accompany it.
But Thompson said, “Working with colors is easy. Working with designed materials is not easy.”
After the meeting, Thompson was asked if he received any phone calls from neighborhood residents complaining about the tower; he said he had not.
The committee slowed AT&T’s process of getting a building permit from the city of Minneapolis. The Minneapolis City Council is expected to grant a permit today when it votes on the measure.
The tower would be the 12th tower in service in Minneapolis and the 70th in the metropolitan area.