Vanguard Community Development Corporation. A Stalwart Champion for Detroit’s North End.

Pamela Martin-Turner, president & CEO of Vanguard.


Detroit’s North EndThe Second in a Monthly Series of Feature Stories About the Community  

Sponsored by the Knight Foundation   

Since its inception almost three decades ago, Vanguard Community Development Corporation has been a major leader in the launching of economic development, housing development, and community engagement and planning initiatives in Detroit’s North End.    

“Our mission is to cultivate Detroit’s Historic North End into a vibrant and healthy community where people live, work, and play,” said Pamela Martin-Turner, president & CEO of Vanguard.   “And our core values are economic equity and racial justice.” 

Among the housing development projects built by Vanguard is Cameron Court, a 24-unit senior development building located on Cameron St.  In addition, Vanguard constructed and owns Melrose Square, a cluster of 24 single family houses with three and four bedrooms.  Vanguard also owns and operates West Oakland, a complex comprised of approximately 45 single-family homes with four bedrooms.   

Martin-Turner said Vanguard will break ground in the spring or summer of 2023 to build North End Landing.  The housing development primarily for rental is on Smith and Bethune streets between John R and Beaubien.  The $50 million project is in partnership with Avanath Development headed by Detroit native Daryl J. Carter.   

Vanguard Community Development Corporation was founded by Bishop Edgar L. Vann II, senior pastor of Second Ebenezer Church.  While Second Ebenezer is now located on Dequindre and East Six Mile Rd. in Detroit, when Vann created the organization in 1994, the church was on  East Grand Blvd. in the North End.  Vanguard, located at 2795 E. Grand Blvd, currently operates independently of Vann and Second Ebenezer, although the Bishop remains on the organization’s board.  

Martin-Turner, a native Detroiter, is excited about all the projects and initiatives spearheaded by Vanguard, including the North End’s East Grand Boulevard Transformation Project.  With funding from the Knight Foundation, substantial streetscape improvements are being made to East Grand Boulevard between Woodward Ave. and I-75.  When completed, the improvements will include but not limited to planting flowers, trees, erecting exterior displays of public art, banners, eye-catching benches and swings, creative crosswalks, and more.   

“If you look at West Grand Blvd. on the other side of Woodward, it has all these beautiful, trees, flowers, benches, and community identification signs and banners,” said Martin-Turner. “We want East Grand Blvd to be just as walkable and attractive for people to enjoy.”     

Martin-Turner, an attorney, expressed the importance of working in partnership with a broad sector of community organizations and residents to bring positive change to the North End. She points to the valuable input of Vanguard’s Community Cabinet, an advisory committee made up of North End’s grassroots leaders, residents, business owners, stakeholders, all of whom provide continuous guidance and direction to Vanguard’s work. 

While there are many initiatives that foster collaboration, Vanguard’s Clean and Safe Project is one of pride. 

“Our Clean and Safe Program operates from April to October,” said Vanguard’s top executive.  “We actually hire North End residents for seasonal job positions.  The workers work with Vanguard, block clubs, community organizations, and other volunteers to cleanup the North End.  This year, we cleaned up 13 tons of trash.”  

One of the many partnering organizations is North End Neighbors.  According to the relatively new block club president, D.R. Castelow, who took over after longtime president, Shirley Davis, stepped away from the position, North End Neighbors is proud to work in partnership with Vanguard and other community stakeholders.  

“Vanguard is an organization that is keeping the North End moving forward.  And Vanguard is great at keeping individuals and other community organizations abreast of what’s going on in the North End,” said Castelow, a 40-year resident of the North End, who heads the community’s Men of The North End and owns Ava’s World Famous Sweet Potato Cake on North End’s Oakland Ave. “A person can go up to Vanguard’s office on E. Grand Blvd. and get almost any information about this great community’s present plans and plans for its future. I really like how Vanguard engages people and organizations in our North End.”  

And the future of the North End? 

“There are a lot of new and exciting projects and developments coming to the North End,” said Martin-Turner.  “The more amenities that we get in the North End, the more this community’s population will grow.  And the more people who move to the North End, the more amenities we will have. The two go hand-in-hand.” 

However, Martin-Turner added, “We are committed to making sure that the current residents, as much as possible, are not displaced by new residents,” said Martin-Turner.  “We think it’s possible for new people to move in without displacing the people who have been here for decades.” 

One exciting economic development project with significant future implications to the North End is the coming of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s People’s Food Co-op.  When it opens in the late summer of 2023, the almost 8,000 square feet facility on Woodward Ave. and Euclid St. will be home to a cooperatively-owned grocery store, something that is 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 Black Community Food Security Network.  Yakini calls  Vanguard a valuable partner that has shared many resources to make the future co-op food store possible.   

“Throughout the pre-development process of our endeavor, Vanguard has been supportive and has helped us either hold or sponsor community engagement sessions,” Yakini said.  “They provided us with a list of the key community leaders and organizations to contact about this important project coming to the North End.  Vanguard has just been a great partner in our efforts to galvanize members of the community 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 have been here for decades and we expect to be here for many more decades.  As things change in the North End, we will be a major part of the positive changes.  And we will adapt and move forward to meet any changes on behalf of the people, businesses, and community organizations in the North End.  We are place-based, meaning we will always be here in the North End working to improve this great community.” 





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