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University officials and city leaders were on hand Tuesday afternoon for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially kick off construction on the new Left Bank luxury apartments.

Philadelphia Mayor John Street, Third District City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and University President Judith Rodin all spoke at the event, held near the construction site, the former G.E. building at 31st and Walnut streets.

Rodin spoke first at the event, praising the advantages that she said the development will bring to the community.

Rodin said she expects the Left Bank to "bring vibrancy and life to University City."

Street echoed Rodin's sentiment.

"The Left Bank will anchor the whole Philadelphia community," Street told the approximately 200 people gathered for the program.

Carl Dranoff, the apartmet copmplex's developer, went even further, predicting that this project would be "the success story of Philadelphia real estate in years to come."

Dranoff also explained the story behind the complex's name, noting that Philadelphia's own Benjamin Franklin was the first emissary from the United States to France.

Consequently, he said, it was only fitting that the property -- which will largely serve the Penn community -- be named for the area Franklin inhabited while in Paris.

"It's going to outhip Paris," Dranoff said of the apartment complex, adding that the Parisian Left Bank represents the culture and art of Paris much like he hopes University City can represent the art and culture of Philadelphia.

Dranoff said he expects that the apartments will be completed on-time and on-budget by January of next year.

The property was saved from demolition when the University purchased the space in 1996.

After securing nearly $55 million in investments, officials from Dranoff Properties said that the University and Dranoff agreed that luxury apartments would serve as the perfect entrance to University City. The University will maintain ownership of the property while giving developer Dranoff a 40-year renewable lease.

The apartments will provide 280 new housing units for Penn professors and students as well as young professionals residing in the University City area.

In addition, the $58 million complex will be home to retail and office space and 266 underground parking.

Leasing for the Left Bank's studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments will begin this June.

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