Born in Miami and educated in Arizona, Brett Kaufman has spent most of his adult life in Columbus, Ohio, making the Midwest city the ideal location for Gravity, his latest passion project set to transform the Franklinton neighborhood. “Columbus has proved to be an incredible test city for many of the world’s largest brands,” Kaufman says. “If it works here, then it can work all over the country and beyond.”
Before diving into innovative real estate projects, the self-proclaimed “art kid” thought it would be more responsible to go into banking to support his family. “I learned a lot, including some incredible fundamental business lessons, but more importantly,” he says, “I learned everything that I did not want my life and work to be about.” After his stint in finance, Kaufman returned to his creative roots designing built spaces, including a set of renovated duplexes in Columbus’ charming German Village neighborhood. “It was a form of art that I felt I could wrap into a business and have the best of both worlds,” he says.
In 2011, he founded Kaufman Development and shifted his focus toward building out full communities that incorporate health and wellness programming. His portfolio now counts 10 valued at $500 million. “We are infusing the story of who we are and what we need, and what our physiology needs, into the design,” he explains.
Gravity, however, is his most ambitious yet. The multiuse five-acre creative community, developed in collaboration with New York firm ICRAVE, offers a number of amenities unique to Columbus. Onsite dining, shopping, coworking space, electric car charging stations, and volunteer and event programs, such as food truck Fridays, guided meditations, and live performances, act as the community’s epicenter of everyday life, as will the art, which includes 14,000 square feet of murals, 90 percent of which will be created by local artists.
The intention with Gravity, Kaufman explains, is to bring both mental health to the forefront of the community and to infuse a space with a sense of activism—and it’s only just begun. Construction on phase two will start later this year with more programming, events, and music that will further allow Kaufman to explore that intersection of art and business. “My lens on the world is elevating the human experience,” he says, “so everything I see is through that.”
Photography by Folchi Creative and renderings courtesy of ICRAVE