For nearly a century, Eagle and South Market streets in downtown Asheville were home to a vibrant cultural and commercial district for Black residents. Anchored by the YMI Cultural Center, one of the oldest Black cultural centers in the U.S., The Block was largely destroyed by urban renewal in the mid-20th century. Now, thanks to pioneering artists and entrepreneurs, The Block is once again a center of commerce, culture and nightlife. TRAVEL TIP: Hidden in plain sight, travelers often miss this burgeoning neighborhood just steps beyond downtown’s main drag. Look for Eagle Street off Biltmore Avenue and head east.
- The Musical Spirit of the Historic Club Del Cardo Comes to Life at LEAF: LEAF Global Arts Board President “Mama Deborah” Bryant remembers what the Club Del Cardo sounded like half a century ago. (She even curated a Spotify playlist of the music she heard at the 20th-century social gathering place and musical hotspot.) Today, LEAF Global Arts — a nonprofit best known for hosting the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) celebrating its Solid Gold 50th Festival in 2022 — is bringing the past of its historic headquarters back to life by re-launching music nights at the Club Del Cardo. In 2022, visitors can enjoy concerts and dance parties hosted by local singers, DJs and bands. These artists are resurrecting the musical heritage of the Club Del Cardo and bringing new life to The Block.
- New Benne on Eagle Chef Brings Taste of African Diaspora: Cleophus Hethington (some call him Cleo, some Ophus, some simply “Chef”) is the new chef de cuisine for the nationally acclaimed Benne on Eagle at The Foundry Hotel. Since opening its doors in December 2018, Benne has been far more than another gourmet downtown eatery. It is a cornerstone of the culinary renaissance of The Block. Fittingly, Chef Hethington has deep experience with the cuisine of the African diaspora — from traditional Ghanian dishes to Caribbean spice and good old-fashioned Southern soul food. He also runs an online boutique spice emporium. In Cleo’s hands, these influences combine into deeply layered, complex-flavored dishes that are as unexpected as they are nourishing.
- UNSUNG HERO: New James Vester Miller Walking Trail Goes Digital: Born to an enslaved mother and an enslaver father, James Vester Miller became a master brick mason with his own successful construction company. During the darkest days of Jim Crow segregation, Miller constructed dozens of magnificent brick buildings throughout downtown Asheville and beyond, including the YMI Cultural Center and Stephens-Lee High School (the pride of the East End neighborhood and the only public high school for African Americans in Western North Carolina). Established by his granddaughter, local photographer Andrea Clark, the James Vester Miller Historic Walking Trail is a series of nine sites throughout downtown Asheville, including The Block and the historic East End neighborhood. In 2022, a digital version of the trail will be launched on ExploreAsheville.com/James-Vester-Miller-Trail.
- 2022 To-Do | Check Out These Businesses on The Block: In 2022, The Block is once again a one-stop-shop for all kinds of unique and handcrafted items from Black makers.
- Noir Collective AVL is a boutique shop and art gallery featuring fine art, apparel, jewelry, CBD products, skincare and crystals. In 2022, Noir Collective will host “Le Mot Noir” events featuring spoken-word gatherings and book readings with local authors.
- Fashionistas looking for a fresh ’fit would do well to stop by JAWBREAKING, on-trend streetwear from Asheville designer Jefferson Ellison — who set up his JAWBREAKING concept store two doors down from where his father, Gene Ellison, ran a nightclub in the ’90s. Those in need of stylish footwear can shop at Sole 82, an ultra-cool sneaker boutique where art and shoes go hand-in-hand.
- Finally, visitors to The Block can get centered at Asheville Iridescence Yoga, an inclusive yoga studio that uses innovative light therapy to calm and balance the body and the mind.
Want more 2022 news? Click here to view 22 (and then some!) transformational travel stories for the year ahead. Beyond the “what’s new” factor are the ever-inspiring histories, untold stories and trailblazers leading the way in this lively mountain city.