OSCODA – “When I married my husband, I married Oscoda.” Pam Loveless married her husband Keith and Oscoda in 1988. On April 2, they celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary with a trip to Paris, thereby fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Loveless first came to Oscoda in 1987 and had visited many times until she and her husband relocated to the area in November 2021. Since then they have been looking for land to develop.
“I couldn’t retire here without being helpful,” Loveless recently told community trustees.
“One of the most beautiful places,” Loveless calls Oscoda. Her vision is to bring young professionals, jobs and housing to the Oscoda area to strengthen the community. However, she is saddened by the state of downtown Oscoda with the run-down, empty buildings.
The state of downtown has also negatively impacted her ability to secure funding for development projects she plans to bring to the area, she claims. Another obstacle she has encountered is that the population estimates for Oscoda reported on sites such as Wikipedia and others are under 1,000.
Investors want to know that the local community supports projects. With an under-registered population, declining incomes and a run-down downtown area, investors are not keen on supporting local projects financially. However, Loveless continues to pursue her vision of affordable housing and well-paying jobs.
Loveless is particularly interested in reviving the construction industry, which is necessary due to the high number of tradespeople who are retiring. Among other things, she plans to offer training in the construction trade. She recently learned from a local contractor that Oscoda High School had eliminated their trades program. Loveless is particularly keen to use the funds available through Governor Whitmer’s training program, which is designed to bring more women and people of color into the trade.
Loveless first pitched their container housing development idea to the Oscoda Township Board of Trustees at their February 28 meeting. Her company, PKL Homes, had submitted two letters of intent (LOIs) to the community to purchase Furtaw Field and build homes using recycled shipping containers. The board voted unanimously to reject both letters of intent.
Undeterred, Loveless returns to the board at its March 28 meeting with a new LOI with a $250,000 purchase price and revised architectural plans for the apartments. She noted that most of the Trustees’ objections concerned the aesthetics of the project. While the trustees thanked her for the time and energy she put into the LOIs, and some liked the idea of recycling shipping containers, all agreed that they did not want the project at Furtaw Field.
After receiving feedback from the board, Loveless approached Blox, a division of Newco Design Build, the Grand Rapids company she works with to redesign the exterior. Their current plans are to cover the containers from the outside in such a way that “it is not recognizable from the outside that they are containers”. Loveless invited Brad Potter, the architect she works with at Newco, to join her in her March 28 presentation to the board. Newco originally started building shipping containers in 2011.
Loveless has also received negative comments from local business owners, one of whom asked her what she would do after the container homes turned to rust. Loveless explained that the shipping containers will not rust through because they are designed for sea voyages. According to Loveless, there are 10 million unused containers in the US while affordable housing is scarce. How the containers are sealed, painted and insulated affects their longevity. With maintenance every 10 years or siding on the outside, the container buildings can last for hundreds of years, says Loveless. She sees the negative comments as an opportunity for clarification and tries not to take them personally.
Although the board has rejected her development plans and she has received some negative feedback, Loveless said she has also received a lot of positive feedback from the community. Several people have reached out to her and offered their support. She specifically mentioned that a police officer had told her, “I love what you want to do and I’ll be your first renter.”
Loveless believes people need a safe place to voice their opinions and she wants a community poll to be conducted. When the majority of the community disagrees with her vision, she says she will move on. She also recognizes that Oscoda has limited areas designated as industrial zones and is currently scheduling a meeting with Saginaw County.
Loveless wants the community to know that it’s not about the money. In fact, she does not derive any salary from her business.
“My purpose in life is to house people. I’ve seen people lose their homes. I want people to be able to rent and own property. That way people are lifted out of poverty and not house poor.” She added.
Loveless filed two LOIs on March 16 for the purchase of two lots at the former Wurtsmith Air Base. The two parcels located at the intersection of California and Michigan are designated R3, Light Industrial. She is offering the community $30,000 for both packages, a price she says is higher than the estimated value. Their plans for the properties are flexible at this point, but will include building apartments or a manufacturing facility.
Future plans include offering off-season vacation rentals as workers housing. PKL WorkBNB would place staff and manage the currently vacant rental properties for most of the year.
Loveless has spent a great deal of time and energy finding funding for rehabilitation projects. She brought the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) grant opportunities to community leaders. Loveless said Oscoda “fits in the MEDC bucket because of the state it’s in.” As previously reported, the MEDC Revitalization and Placemaking Program (RAP) awards up to $20 million to local or regional partners who are developing a coordinated subgrant program.