May 26, 2023 - Economy

The dogecoin developer

Ian Youvan standing in a worksite.

Ian Youvan, the DOGE investor turned developer, at his worksite. Photo: Brady Dale/Axios

The perennial question in cryptocurrency is: what is it actually good for? How about downtown revitalization.

Driving the news: One native of Pittsburg, Kansas, dumped his 2020 stimulus check into dogecoin, multiplied his money 10 times over and bought an abandoned building downtown.

  • Since then, the project has expanded to rehabbing three empty buildings in the downtown area, just ahead of the arrival of a major new tenant nearby.

Catch up fast: Ian Youvan is a 2017 graduate of Pittsburg State University. The freelance designer and side hustle expert learned about the local land bank, which put his eye on a large building that was available for only $12,000.

  • Previously, it had been a hotel, a grocery distribution center and a sheet metal fabricator. Lately, it's just been full of junk.
  • Youvan also been interested in cryptocurrency ever since the 2017 crypto boom, but he didn't have the patience to figure out how to get access to it. Not until Robinhood enabled crypto trading in 2018.

What he's saying: "I saw Marc Cuban and Elon hyping it and I was like: ' This s--- is so cheap,'" Youvan told Axios in an interview. "The funny thing is I got my [COVID] stimulus check and this was like a free roll."

  • If he lost it all, it was no loss to him; but if it helped him cover his big real estate play, it would be amazing. Little did he realize he would get 100%.
  • He actually threw in a couple hundred dollars of his own money on top of the check from D.C. Because he already knew what he wanted, he told himself that he'd sell as soon as his DOGE bag hit $12,000 — if it did.

Timeline: He took possession of the building summer 2021. As soon as he got the building, there was literally tons of junk that had to be cleared out.

Zoom in: A long-time tinkerer with autos and metal products, he originally just wanted the space for a large workshop.

  • He didn't have an idea for the upper floors at first, but now they are crucial as the idea has since gotten much bigger.
  • Youvan told Axios that he's since been able to bring in business partners. He invested alongside them, and together they are redeveloping three buildings downtown, including the one next door to the one he bought.
  • The plan is to fill the upper stories with 10 apartments for young professionals and the first floor with medium-term office space and the like.
  • They are considering putting in a food hall if they can get the funds together.
A downtown block in Pittsburg, Kansas.
The gray stone building is the one Youvan acquired. The one with red brick and plywood was added to the project once he had partners. Photo: Brady Dale / Axios

Timeline: Youvan said it would have taken years to do on his own, but with the new business partners, he should be ready to lease space this year (work was buzzing all over when Axios visited).

By the numbers: Pittsburg is a city of around 20,000 people in the southeast corner of Kansas. The downtown runs maybe 10 blocks or so long.

  • There's so much parking.

The upshot: The timing is looking very good with the local university announcing plans this year to relocate its business school down the street, which should mean a giant increase in downtown activity.

The intrigue: Youvan is a long way from a crypto diehard.

  • While he joked about calling the space Hotel Doge for a while, he's moved on to Town Talk Studios, named after a historic local brand.

What he's saying: "Crypto is a weird thing to me. I feel like it has so much potential, but I don't see the utility in it until I can buy my smoothie with some dogecoin, what's the point?" he said.

  • Youvan's the first to admit that his DOGE purchase wasn't especially idealistic. It was a long shot to make some money, and it worked.

Yes, but: He's also not completely out of crypto. "I buy it every day. Right now I just buy SHIB. I just have my Robinhood spend like $2 a day," he said.

Bottom line: His friends followed him into dogecoin, but it was too late. They held on too long and ended up losing money. "The biggest thing I've learned is don't get greedy," Youvan added. "Sell."

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