Barry Annino passed along the news last night: Don Blanton, longtime Deep Ellum property owner, died last weekend of a heart attack at his second home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The funeral will take place January 5 at noon at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home, followed by a graveside service, with military funeral honors, at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Ceremony. (He had been in the Navy.) Blanton was among the original real estate pioneers who began buying property in Deep Ellum in the early 1980s, along with Don Cass, Al Jernigan and Lou Reese, who died earlier this year.
It was Blanton, in fact, who was the original landlord of the Theatre Gallery at 2808 Commerce, pictured above; it remains among the properties still owned by Blanton's TXON Commercial Real Estate Company. As Jeff Liles wrote in an Unfair Park comment long ago, "There were periods of three or four months at a time where Blanton let Russ [Hobbs] slide on the rent -- he was just happy to have warm bodies in his building. That was an effective collaboration and mutual understanding between artist and businessman -- one that nurtured the neighborhood and kept our spirits up when times got rough."
But there are more pressing concerns than the past, not to mention condolences that need to be offered.
Blanton had been ill for a while; he'd been diagnosed with cancer. And death leaves an even larger question mark concerning Scott Beck's deal to remake Deep Ellum in his own image. Blanton was among the majority stakeholders, along with Cass and Jernigan, who'd committed to selling to Beck. But the deal's been in question ever since the credit market crunch, and Blanton's death only adds further confusion and chaos to the deal. Said Annino in his brief note last night, Blanton's death is "a neighborhood changer."
His wife Jeanne has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children. --Robert Wilonsky