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9 juli 2013

A cell phone tower resembling a pine tree: Portage gets Kalamazoo area's first 'monopine'

PORTAGE, MI – In Tree City USA Portage, a new “pine” towers 150 feet above a busy intersection, popping up seemingly overnight. It's like nothing else in the Kalamazoo area.

Towering 150-feet, this monopine cell phone tower is the first in the area, located near the intersection of Oakland Drive and West Centre Avenue.
Tom Haroldson/Special to MLive

It is not a tree, though, but a monopine cell phone tower. Located near the southwest corner of Oakland Drive and West Centre Avenue, it is the only telecommunications tower of its kind in the Kalamazoo area.

A monopine is mobile phone tower designed to look like a pine tree. It’s fitted with antennae that resemble branches and its tower is synthetic bark.

It was installed by the developer of the Oakland Hills Condominiums and Oakland Hills at Centre projects, a 48-acre development to include 107 single-family condos and several offices. The site plan that included the pine tower was approved last year by the city but installing the unique cell phone tower involved both state and federal clearance.

The Oakland Hills Condominiums on Oakland Drive near Centre will add 22 single-family condos to the 84 that have been built since 2006 on the former Oakland Hills Golf Course property, next to the Gourdneck State Game Area.

Greg Dobson, representing American Village Development, said the monopine was chosen as the cell tower design rather than a typical steel pole structure for several reasons.

Seen from the intersection of West Centre Avenue and Oakland Drive, the monopine telecommunications tower stands higher than other trees in that area, but blends in.
Tom Haroldson/Special to MLive

“It will improve the aesthetics for the community and the surrounding existing and proposed future development,” Dobson said of the 150-foot pine that towers over all other trees in that area.

Michelle Gilbert, manager of public relations for Verizon Wireless, which installed the monopine, said there are no others like it in the Kalamazoo area. Verizon has installed monopines in Michigan in Norton Shores, Bloomfield Township and at the former Pine Knob in Clarkston. Other mobile phone companies have also used the design in Michigan and elsewhere in the United States, but none in the Kalamazoo-Portage area.

“There is no cost benefit to building this type of cell site vs. the traditional monopole, but it is a more aesthetically pleasing,” Gilbert said. “What’s important is we will work with the community to build what they want.”

The monopine is across the street from another flag-pole type of cell tower at the southeastern corner of Oakland and Centre. That pole cannot be expanded. With Verizon looking to improve its 4G service in that area and the developers seeking a more natural structure to blend in, the monopine was chosen.

Gilbert said the tower has a range of 1 ½ to 2 miles, covering cell phone usage in an area including Oakland Hills, West Centre Avenue, the Moors Golf Course and Heath Ridge development. It is taller than that the typical cell phone tower.

“It will improve coverage in that area,” she said.

Dobson said that while the tower itself “has no impact on our development pace” it has improved service in that area, from office users to homeowners.

“Excellent cell service is minimally a bonus and for many individuals a requirement in today’s world,” Dobson said.

As for the Oakland Hills development, it “is developing nicely ... with a consistently good sales pace,” he said.

Dobson noted that the residential land immediately surrounding the monopine, while zoned for Oakland Hills-style condos, would be a future phase and potentially slightly different than the current Oakland Hills.

“We are going to call it Oakland Hills at Centre, while the office land around the monopine is entitled the Offices at Oakland Hills and is owned by AVB and Treystar,” he said.

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