Georgia Bell, 91 and feisty, has finally agreed to clear out of the way of a multimillion-dollar student housing project near the University of Kansas campus.
For two years, Bell refused to sell her home to the project’s Chicago developer, even when the company said it would build the five-story complex around her, leaving her only access a flight of old, uneven concrete steps that she can’t climb.
On Thursday, Bell declined to disclose the purchase price. But considering she and her husband gave $850 for the place back in 1946, and the developer offered $600,000 in March, one might figure she made out OK.
“I think it is a win for Ms. Bell,” said James Heffernan, an executive with Here LLC, the development company.
That’s one way to look at it.
Bell, on the other hand, said, “Nobody gives a hoot, poot or toot about what I wanted.”
She feels ganged up on. She reared six children in the little house on Indiana Street. Their photos hang on the wall. She’s got 17 parakeets. She wanted to stay put.
The Lawrence City Commission earlier approved Here LLC’s plans to build about 175 apartments on three sides of Bell’s property. Commissioners said at the time they were bewildered by Bell’s refusal to accept the offer.
Bell said she had been offended by the commissioners’ comments.
“They thought they were so smart and I was so dumb,” she said. “They should keep their damn mouths shut up there at the City Commission.”
A representative with the development company said demolition work could begin in the fall and the complex is expected to open in time for the 2016 school year. Development plans indicate the complex will include the land where Bell’s home stands.
Hefferman said the sale gives Bell an opportunity for a fresh start.
“It is good for the city because it will increase the tax rolls, and will allow for the removal of a property that had become blighted, honestly,” he said.
Bell said Thursday she was just fine in the little house with a leaky roof and a plywood patch in the kitchen floor.
“I’ve lived here 70 years and I could live here another 70,” she said.
Bell hasn’t received the proceeds yet, but said she did get an advance of $25,000 to use for earnest money on a new place.
“It isn’t so much whether I want to move or not,” she said. “It is where I’m going to move to from here. They just want me out.”