Five residents remain at Silver Oaks


One of the five remaining residents at Silver Oaks Place, 70-year-old Marilyn Holloway, watched squirrels fight over oatmeal she put on her patio on Thurday, Dec. 8. The new apartment complex she is forced to move into has no available first floor housing. Holloway said she will have to disconnect from activities she loves like gardening and feeding birds. She is scheduled to move on Dec. 19. Photo by Jessica Yanesh.

Nick Glunt, Jessica White

Silver Oaks Place was once home to more than 200 seniors who organized euchre clubs, potluck picnics and even an in-apartment library.

“It was just like our own little town,” said 70-year-old resident Marilyn Holloway.

Now, it’s almost empty.

After months of legal battles and public protests, five remain in the 55-and-older apartment complex.

Residents were notified in late July of Capstone Development Corp.’s pending purchase of the complex. Silver Oaks management asked all residents to leave the premises by Oct. 1 — giving them little more than two months to find new accommodations. Many residents had lived there between 25 and 30 years.

Capstone, an Alabama-based development firm, plans to remodel the buildings for student housing.

Making a statement

Holloway was one of the newer and younger residents, having moved in two years ago. Now, she’s one of few still living in Silver Oaks and protesting the move.

She had several opportunities for new homes, but she decided to stick it out until the end — and then some.

“I felt this was a point where a statement needed to be made,” Holloway said. “It’s not nearly as strong as Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus, but yet this is a discrimination. And hopefully it has awakened some people.”

She said she knew from the beginning that she’d have to move out, but that wasn’t going to stop her from fighting. Holloway was one of 45 Silver Oaks residents to bring complaints to mediation with Tell Real Estate (the owner) and Capstone (the buyer) in late September.

The other four remaining residents declined interviews for various reasons. Capstone representative Alton Irwin refused to comment.

Holloway and at least three of the other remaining residents have December move-out dates. Capstone’s purchase will be finalized Jan. 1.

Lease or no lease

After the mediation in late September — on which she is unable to comment due to signing a confidentiality agreement — Holloway made two attempts to pay her rent. After all, she was still living in Silver Oaks.

On Oct. 3, Holloway tried to pay her rent to Tell Real Estate. A week later, her check was returned via mail. A note with the check explained that Tell could not accept the money because she was no longer under lease.

“I was afraid that they would come and hand me an eviction notice and say, ‘Goodbye,’” Holloway said.

Avery Friedman, the civil rights attorney who represented the residents at mediation, suggested looking at old rent checks for a bank and account number. Holloway found both, so she deposited her rent directly into Tell’s account.

When November’s rent was due, she asked the Silver Oaks receptionist if she should once again deposit directly.

“She was flabbergasted; she didn’t know what to say,” Holloway said, laughing. “I still have my check for November. I didn’t even try for December.”

Not alone

Silver Oaks residents weren’t the only ones to object Capstone’s purchase.

The people of Kent responded to the short-notice business deal in news outlet comments and letters to the editor. In August, Kent City Council passed symbolic motions in support of the residents.

Kent citizens and Kent State students rallied in early September to raise money to pay Friedman. The Community Action Council (CAC) of Portage County paid the rest, and then offered to buy the property from Capstone two weeks later.

“(Capstone) never responded,” said David Shea, CAC executive director. “They ignored the offer.”

Friedman said Michael Priore of Windsor Realty & Management also made an offer, but Capstone “nixed” it.

Taking it national

Friedman decided to represent the Silver Oaks residents because he sees the deal as a civil rights violation.

“Contrary to popular belief and surprising to most, neither Congress nor the Ohio General Assembly has outlawed age bias in housing,” Friedman wrote in an email. “The cause to amend the law and the dignity with which the seniors at Silver Oaks carried themselves told a compelling story: why it is time for legislative bodies to act.”

Holloway said she heard that Silver Oaks became a hot topic even outside of Kent. She thinks students would have protested more if it all had started during a semester and not during the summer. By the time students returned for classes, many residents had already moved, she said.

Still, ex-residents plan to keep in contact and continue fighting. Holloway mentioned contacting the American Association for Retired Persons to spread the word to a national audience.

“Legally, (Tell and Capstone) broke no law,” Friedman said. “But the majestic men and women who lived at Silver Oaks put a human face on an American crisis, the need to protect this precious part of our population.”

Contact Nick Glunt at [email protected] and Jessica White at [email protected].