A Grand Opening: The Left Bank

A Revitalizing Renovation and Restoration

Above Ben Franklin visits the newest Left Bank, this one on the banks of the Schuylkill River (on "the Smart Side of Center City"). The building is so named because the surrounding mosaic of education, culture, arts and entertainment embodies an atmosphere of the joi de vivre and hipness of its counterpart in Paris, France-a place also near and dear to old Ben.

Former mayor Edward Rendell and City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, whose district includes the Left Bank  City Councilman At-large Thatcher Longstreth 

Above, Mayor John Street and Penn President Judith Rodin applaud the developer Carl Dranoff (below) for his role in this collaborative venture which brought an old building back to life.


After the speeches were made in the Grand Lobby, the brass plaque (above) was unveiled on the building's Walnut Street facade.

Above, the view of the atrium from the sixth floor of The Left Bank, provides a peek of the spectacular courtyard with its French-style balconies overlooking an area that is larger than a football field, and reminiscent of a Parisian street scene.


The Left Bank--among the largest properties converted to residential use to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places--was dedicated last Wednesday. Of course, Benjamin Franklin was on hand to lend his witty comments to the festivities.

Executive Vice President John Fry called developer Carl Dranoff a "hero" for his skill, taste and level of determination in delivering this project so rapidly; it has been only seven months since the official groundbreaking on June 13, 2000, and residents have already begun moving in.

President Judith Rodin was hailed as the "real visionary" for preventing the demolition of this once vacant structure, thereby preserving the availability of the historic tax credits while meeting the demand for residential options.

Mayor John Street said that this partnership has been great for the City of Philadelphia. He noted appreciation for Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Former Mayor Ed Rendell as well as Councilman-at-large Thatcher Longstreth. This is truly a 'Town and Gown' success story.

Carl Dranoff, president of Dranoff Properties, said that "The Left Bank will become a destination" to live and work. The complex features 282 luxury loft apartments, 258 gated indoor parking spaces, and 22,000 square feet of retail space and 100,000 square feet of office space and is home to the Penn Children's Center (CLICK HERE for more on the Childrens Center).

Bower, Lewis Thrower architects created a Grand Lobby, accented by Art Deco features, as well as state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities. Mr. Dranoff said that craftsmanship is not dying out in the construction trades. He credited the 1997 ordinance passed by City Council which provides a ten-year tax abatement to those who convert abandoned buildings with creating the right climate for entrepreneurs. It has had a profound impact on developers and lenders, he added, giving them the confidence to undertake such ventures as The Left Bank.

Under a 50-year ground lease with Penn, Carl Dranoff undertook one of the largest residential renovations in the country. He transformed the 700,000 square foot, former G.E. Building at 32nd and Walnut into a luxury residential complex--the gateway to Penn. The building--which was originally the Pennsylvania Railroad Freight Warehouse Building--now blends vintage architecture and design elements from the 1920s Art Deco era with state-of-the-art technology; it is the region's first completely "wireless" residential complex. The $58 million development will also include a full-scale fitness center.

The transformation was accentuated by the 300 foot-long garden atrium created by removing 5,000 cubic yards of concrete from the center of the six-story building. The courtyard required 1,200 cubic yards of soil to support the many plants and ornamental grasses designed for year-long appeal.

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 21, February 6, 2001

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