BOSTON-A group of activists has propelled itself into the debate over plans to build a controversial skyscraper over South Station here. The group, Save Our Heritage, believes that the proposed 47-story tower will ruin the 19th century station.

The group also contends that the project will disrupt Amtrak’s ability to develop its new express train service due to the years of construction at the station that the tower will require. The group is also fighting to stop commercial airline service at Hanscom Field and believes the new rail service will render an airport near historic sites unnecessary.

Save Our Heritage boasts an array of celebrity supporters including Joan Cusack, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck and Christopher Reeve as well as former Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis. Earlier this week, the group began its campaign by passing out leaflets at South Station urging commuters to call Massachusetts Governor Paul Celluci and tell him to stop the project.

The $600-million South Station project, a joint venture between Hines Interests and Tufts University, had been stalled for years until this summer, when the development team won a rare exemption from the Massachusetts Legislature on a Chapter 91 license usually required for development along Boston Harbor. An environmental impact report was filed this past October. The project, which calls for a 500-room hotel and nine-story office/research building in addition to the 47-story tower, was originally proposed by Tufts in the 1980s, but it was delayed by the recession of the early 1990s. Hines joined Tufts on the project in 1998.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also criticized the planned 47-story office tower due to possible impacts on air traffic but the project has received unexpected backing from the powerful Conservation Law Foundation. The environmental group says the project encourages the use of public transportation.

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