Capstone found Silver Oaks while under university contract

Nick Glunt

President Lester Lefton regarding Capstone and Silver Oaks

President Lefton talks about Silver Oaks and capstone.

After months of misleading statements from multiple university officials, public records revealed Wednesday that the development company responsible for the eviction of more than 100 seniors was initially hired by Kent State.

Records show the university hired Capstone Development Corp. in late 2009 to conduct a study on Kent State’s housing situation. Though officials have refused partnering with Capstone in its pending acquisition of Silver Oaks Place, Capstone found Silver Oaks while conducting the Kent State study.

Residents of Silver Oaks, a retirement community at the corner of Loop and Horning roads, were given eviction notices in late July this year. They were required to leave by Oct. 1 because Capstone was planning to buy the property to renovate it into student housing.

The Daily Kent Stater heard rumors as early as August that the university had something to do with the deal. President Lester Lefton and university spokespersons Tom Neumann and Emily Vincent were asked; all three said the university had no involvement.

A Daily Kent Stater reporter asked Lefton on Sept. 26 whether he has ever met with any Capstone representative and how he felt toward the development corporation.

“The university has nothing to do with Silver Oaks,” Lefton said. “There’s no formal relationship with them. I express displeasure to President Obama, to the governor, to all kinds of people about all kinds of things. We have no formal relationship with Silver Oaks or Capstone.”

Records show Neumann, associate vice president of University Communications and Marketing, and Vincent, director of university media relations, each neglected to share that Capstone had discovered Silver Oaks while under university contract. Furthermore, they failed to indicate that correspondence continued between them as far as September of this year.

A Daily Kent Stater reporter asked Neumann on Aug. 23 to confirm or deny rumors that the university had been leaning on the Silver Oaks management to sell — rumors for which the Daily Kent Stater has since found no supporting evidence.

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“The university has nothing to do whatsoever with the deal that (Silver Oaks) was sold or forcing any kind of evictions, or leaning on the old management or new management or anything along those lines,” Neumann said.

Finally, a Daily Kent Stater reporter asked Vincent whether the university has had any direct involvement with the Silver Oaks ordeal, as well as what stance Kent State administration stance holds on the subject.

“This is a private property matter between the seller and the buyer. The university cannot tell a private owner what to do with its property,” Vincent wrote in an email on Sept 7. “The university isn’t happy with what is taking place, and we have expressed that to the new owner. We encourage the current owners of Silver Oaks and the buyer to work together to ensure the wellbeing of the senior residents and to provide for their relocation with sensitivity and respect.”

Undergraduate enrollment at Kent State’s main campus increased from 22,578 in Fall 2008 to 26,938 in Fall 2011. As a result, the university has been searching for housing solutions.

Tom Neumann on Silver Oaks evictions

Tom Neumann, associate vice president of University Communications and Marketing

Records show that Greg Jarvie, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, and Gregg Floyd, vice president for finance and administration, hired Capstone on Nov. 6, 2009 for a reported $10,000 plus travel expenses to review the university’s residence situation. Kent State officials have been in contact with Capstone since at least Oct. 30, 2009.

Capstone conducted its research from Dec. 7-9, 2009. On Dec. 9, 2009, Capstone representatives delivered an analysis of the company’s findings.

Floyd told the Record-Courier Tuesday that Capstone became interested in purchasing Silver Oaks during its investigation. Capstone even offered to enter a partnership with Kent State in the purchase, but university officials refused.

Floyd said in the same article that Capstone made it clear it would continue to pursue the property with or without the university’s partnership. Capstone President Michael Mouron wrote in a letter to Floyd and Jarvie that despite several failed attempts to partner with the university, it has no intention of backing down.

He said the purchase — which should close around Nov. 1 — made sense because the property was half-vacant and it did not properly accommodate the seniors living there.

Between 12 and 40 of the original 150 Silver Oaks residents remain there after a mediation on Sept. 28 to extend their leases. Those remaining signed confidentiality agreements, barring them from commenting on the negotiations.

“While affordable senior housing is an issue with which many communities struggle,” Mouron wrote, “Silver Oaks was not a viable solution for the community of Kent, Ohio, going forward.”

Contact Nick Glunt at [email protected]. Daniel Moore contributed.