Pamela Martin-Turner, President and CEO of Vanguard.
Detroit’s North End — The second in a monthly series of community-themed stories
Supported by the Knight Foundation
Since its founding nearly three decades ago, Vanguard Community Development Corporation has been a major leader in economic development, housing, community engagement and planning initiatives in Detroit’s North End.
“Our mission is to transform Detroit’s historic North End into a vibrant and healthy community where people live, work and play,” said Pamela Martin-Turner, president and CEO of Vanguard. “And our core values are economic equality and racial justice.”
Among the residential projects built by Vanguard is Cameron Court, a 24-unit senior building located on Cameron Street. In addition, Vanguard built and owns Melrose Square, a cluster of 24 single-family homes with three and four bedrooms. Vanguard also owns and operates West Oakland, a development consisting of approximately 45 four-bedroom single-family homes.
Vanguard will break ground in the spring or summer of 2023 to build North End Landing, Martin-Turner said. The primarily rental housing development is located at Smith and Bethune streets between John R and Beaubien. The $50 million project is a partnership with Avanath Development, led by Detroit native Darryl J. Carter.
Vanguard Community Development Corporation was founded by Bishop Edgar L. Vann II, Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Second Church. While Second Ebenezer is now at Dequindre and East Six Mile Rd. in Detroit, when Wang started the organization in 1994, the church was located on East Grand Boulevard. in the North End. Vanguard, located at 2795 E. Grand Blvd, currently operates independently of Van and Second Ebenezer, although Bishop remains on the organization’s board.
Martin-Turner, a Detroit native, is excited about all the projects and initiatives Vanguard has initiated, including the project to transform East Grand Boulevard in the North End. Funding from the Knight Foundation significantly improves the streetscape of East Grand Boulevard between Woodward Avenue and I-75. Once complete, the landscaping will include, but not be limited to, planting of flowers, trees, outdoor public art displays, banners, attractive benches and swings, creative crosswalks and more.
“If you look at West Grand Blvd. the other side of Woodward has all these beautiful trees, flowers, benches, identification signs and banners, Martin-Turner said. “We want East Grand Blvd to be as inviting and attractive to people as it is.”
Martin-Turner, a solicitor, expressed the importance of working with a wide range of community organizations and residents to bring about positive change in the North End. She notes the valuable input of Vanguard’s Civic Cabinet, an advisory committee comprised of North End grassroots leaders, residents, business owners, and stakeholders, all of whom provide ongoing guidance and guidance in Vanguard’s work.
While there are many initiatives that promote collaboration, the Vanguard Clean and Safe project is a point of pride.
“Our Clean and Safe program runs from April to October,” said the Vanguard executive. “We actually hire North End residents for seasonal jobs. Workers are working with Vanguard, block clubs, community organizations and other volunteers to clean up the North End. This year we removed 13 tons of garbage.”
One of the many partner organizations is North End Neighbors. North End Neighbors is proud to partner with Vanguard and other community stakeholders, according to relatively new block club president D.R. Castelo, who took over after longtime president Shirley Davis stepped down.
“Vanguard is an organization that ensures the movement of the Northern Territory. And Vanguard is great at keeping people and other community organizations informed about what’s going on in the North End,” said Castelo, a 40-year-old North End resident who heads the Men of the North End community and owns Ava’s World Famous Sweet. Potato Pie on Oakland Avenue North End. “One can go up to the Vanguard office on E. Grand Blvd. and to obtain practically any information about the present plans of this great community and its plans for the future. I really like how Vanguard engages people and organizations in our North End.”
And the future of the North End?
“There are many new and exciting projects and developments coming to the North End,” Martin-Turner said. “The more amenities we get in the North End, the more the population of that community will grow. And the more people move to the North End, the more amenities we’ll have. Both go hand in hand.”
However, Martin-Turner added: “We are committed to ensuring that current residents are not displaced by new residents as much as possible,” Martin-Turner said. “We believe that new people can come in without displacing people who have been here for decades.”
One exciting economic development project with significant implications for the North End is the emergence of the Detroit Negro Community Food Security Network People’s Food Cooperative. When it opens in late summer 2023, the nearly 8,000-square-foot facility at Woodward Avenue and Euclid Street will be home to a co-op-owned grocery store, much needed in the North End. The People’s Food Co-op will be under the leadership of Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit-based Black Food Security Network. Iacchini credits Vanguard as a valuable partner who has shared many resources to make the future grocery store co-op possible.
“Throughout the pre-development process of our efforts, Vanguard has supported and helped us either host or sponsor community engagement sessions,” Yakini said. “They gave us a list of key community leaders and organizations to contact about this important project being planned for the North End. Vanguard has just been a great partner in our efforts to encourage community members to embrace this future store.”
And what does the future hold for Vanguard Community Development Corporation?
“Vanguard is here for the long haul,” Martin-Turner said. “We’ve been here for decades and expect to be here for many decades to come. If things change in the North End, we will be part of the positive change. And we will adapt and move forward to meet any changes on behalf of people, businesses and community organizations in the North End. We’re on-site, which means we’ll always be here in the North End working to improve this great community.”