PSU business grad takes on the latest downtown historic reno project 

One of the latest historic downtown buildings to be saved from the wrecking ball was purchased by a PSU graduate in a unique way, and he’s bringing it back to life in an equally unique way. 

Downtown Youvan

Ian Youvan, a 2017 graduate of the Kelce College of Business, used his $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus check to invest in a rising cryptocurrency, Dogecoin. 

“It’s like a free roll,” he said. 

He was successful: A month later, he had $12,000 — enough to purchase real estate. But perhaps not the sort of real estate most would buy.  

Youvan bought 117 N. Broadway from the City of Pittsburg’s land bank — a collection of vacant, abandoned, tax-delinquent, underused properties. 

It was full of trash, piles of forgotten items, and a mountain of duct work. 

He and buddies began cleaning, sorting, and filling roll-off dumpsters. Lots of them. 

Downtown Youvan 2

They video blogged — or vlogged — the process on YouTube and caught the attention of curious followers. 

By late July, Youvan had cleared about 20,000 pounds of scrap metal from the second floor and had filled 16 dumpsters from the first floor. He opened up the space by removing a mezzanine, old offices, and diver walls. 

“It’s an enormous space. The first and second floors are each 7,500 square feet, and then there’s a smaller third floor,” he said.  

Youvan then turned his attention to the exterior of the building, which is adjacent to a beautifully restored corner building now occupied by Embellish Boutique, and just a few doors north of a building transformed this summer into the new headquarters of LimeLight Marketing — also owned by a graduate of the Kelce College of Business. 

“This place was built in the early 1900s and was crying out for attention,” he said. 

He installed new windows on Broadway. 

Armed with a $1,000 grant from the City of Pittsburg’s Downtown Advisory Board and a photo from a PSU Kanza yearbook, he commissioned a local artist to restore an historic advertising logo from Cripe’s Town Talk Bread on the upper level.  

Downtown Youvan giant mural

And, armed with his own paintbrushes and creative inspiration, he climbed scaffolding on the alleyway side of the building to turn it into a giant canvas; it’s now one of the largest murals in Pittsburg. 

Fast forward a few months and the lower level is now home to a welding and fabrication workshop in which Youvan — who earned a minor in innovation engineering — and his buddies create architectural pieces for his freelance business and a construction company for which they all work: gates for high-end horse barns, diving boards for custom swimming pools, and the like. 

Downtown Youvan 2

Cars in various stages of repair hint at what he'll spend

Next up: completely renovating the second and third floors, which he plans to turn into moderate income apartments. He’s awaiting word on a grant from the State of Kansas that would kickstart the project. 

“I’ve laid out space for 11 apartments,” he said, “with three up front on the second floor; four, two-bedroom apartments in the back; and then four studio style apartments up on the third floor.” 

Those spaces were thought to be first occupied by a hotel, Youvan said, with a grocery store on the bottom. Large steel beams and a conveyer belt hint that in later years the building was used for either storage or manufacturing. 

Currently, the upper floors are occupied mostly by pigeons and what remains of duct work. But Youvan has a vision and is undeterred. 

“Improvement is momentum,” he said. "When I start something, I can’t stop until it’s done.” 

He encouraged others to learn more about the city’s land bank, noting that they were “awesome to work with.” 

“There’s just so much potential here,” he said. “There’s a lot of wasted space in these old buildings downtown, all we have to do is take the boards off of them and get busy.”