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Towering Above the Rest

Story: Emily Kapp, Design: Bob Craig and Anthony Pavuk, Images: Credit to Kaufman Development

There’s that one skyscraper in the Columbus skyline no one can miss: standing at 555feet and 47 floors, the LeVeque Tower has defined the Columbus cityscape since it was originally built in 1927. Brett Kaufman, CEO of Kaufman Development and a graduate of Ohio State, has taken on the challenge of renovating it. Kaufman recently expressed in an interview his early passion for real estate, his ascent in the business world, and the of development of LeVeque Tower and future projects in Columbus.
Recently founded in 2011, Kaufman Development has taken on a range of projects in the five years it has been operating. The most recent, and perhaps the most stunning, is the renovation of the LeVeque Tower in downtown Columbus, which happens to be the second tallest building in the city behind the Rhodes State Office Tower.
Kaufman, who began school as an architecture major and then switched to city planning, was a transfer student to Ohio State who graduated in 1997. Upon graduating, Kaufman was— like many Ohio State students—not completely sure of the future. With a passion for the highly competitive field of real estate, Kaufman knew he would have to start elsewhere and work his way up.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the real estate, design and development world,” Kaufman says. “But that took some time to get clear on exactly how that would manifest itself.”
His eventual career in real estate and development didn’t come immediately. Since entry-level jobs in real estate weren’t easy to come by, Kaufman first went into banking. Through hard work and a little networking, he then moved his way up and into capital marketing, and eventually was able to break out into the real estate industry with his wealth of experience in the business world.
To Kaufman, all of these experiences, related or unrelated, helped him to accomplish his dream of working in real estate.“I’m a believer that everything you do is part of the experience…what I learned in school, the banking world, what I learned in other positions in the real estate business, things I’ve experienced personally, things that I’ve experienced that sometimes you would think were disconnected from work are all things that I used to form our company, and the work we do today.”
As CEO of a smaller-sized company, Kaufman’s job is not an easy one with working in the city, collaborating with his team, reviewing designs, and anticipating future projects. Kaufman says that as CEO, you’re always keeping one eye forward and one eye back.
With a number of projects lined up to continue the development of different areas in Columbus, Kaufman is confident and excited for the future of the company.
“All the projects we do are ones we hope to have impact, whether it be on a high-end price point or something’s that’s on a more affordable angle, relatively speaking.” Kaufman says that his company tries to take on projects that have a certain element of class, and that “LeVeque Tower is the ultimate example of that in Columbus.”
Located at 50 West Broad Street, LeVeque Tower was the tallest building in Columbus and the fifth tallest building in the world in its original opening in 1927. In a time period where many of the city’s original buildings were torn down in favor of building new skyscrapers, LeVeque Tower remained.
Renovations of the skyscraper include a hotel, luxury apartments, and condos. Hotel LeVeque houses floors one through five and will hold 150 guest rooms. The 69 luxury apartment residences will be leased between $1,400 and more than $2,000 depending on room type. Condominiums will be available in 2017 and be located at the very top of the tower, which can cost up to $1.5 million.
Just as the city of Columbus has a lot of momentum for development, so do Ohio State students in their future careers. For Kaufman, there is one overarching theme that has guided his career since graduating nineteen years ago: passion.
“You need to pursue things that you’re personally passionate about. The money will come– there’s always ways to monetize ideas–, but you need to make sure that’s something you can really commit your time and a good portion of your life to doing. I believe that if you do that, you’ll be successful no matter what.”
Less than twenty years ago, Brett Kaufman was in a position many Ohio State students are in currently. Today, his passion and work led to success in the form of Kaufman Development, the LeVeque Tower Development, and other projects the company will take on in the future. With a little passion and drive, Ohio State students may be able to do the same.

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