Georgia Bell (pictured) is 91 years old, and in 1946, she and her then-husband purchased a one-bedroom home for $850 in Lawrence, Kansas, right near the University of Kansas. Bell has raised six children at the 840-sq.-ft. home that is now falling apart. Now, a Chicago developer wants to buy Bell’s home so that his company can build a residential and retail complex and has reportedly, and over the course of a year, tried to convince the woman to take the $600,000 being offered to leave her residence, but according to The Kansas City Star, she has refused.
Bell’s home is located right near the edge of the University of Kansas’ campus. The developer, HERE LLC, wants to build a five-story modern residential and retail complex that consists of 156 student housing units with 18-foot ceilings, eateries, a fitness center, a rooftop garden, a swimming pool and the pièce de résistance automatic robotic parking structure that picks up and sets down vehicles.
The planned complex will be U-shaped and Bell’s dilapidated home sits smack dab in the middle of it — if she refuses to leave. If Bell continues to fight “progress,” her property will be surrounded by buildings.
The 98-pound senior did consider what having the extra cash would mean to her: new teeth and a vehicle to replace the 1987 Pontiac Sunbird she currently drives. Still, Bell worries about where she would go. Even though Bell, who has 17 parakeets and is a Mother, she does not want to live with her children.
The elderly woman values her independence and enjoys living on her own, and she particularly enjoys taking out the garbage, she told The Kansas City Star. Bell told the news outlet, “I done broke the ice here and now they want to sweep me out,” she said. “I got nowhere to go and it’s like I don’t matter.”
Can the city force Bell out of the comfort of her four walls?
Lawrence officials and the developer, Jim Heffernan, do not want to force Bell out of her home through eminent domain, which is a right of a government to take private property for public use. According to Heffernan, who spoke to the Kansas City Star, his company does not want to bully Bell out of her residence, “We have no desire for that,” he contends.
Bell’s home, which has a market value of about $93,500. is reportedly falling apart. The home’s siding is rotting and pulling away, there is a plywood patch on the kitchen floor, and the roof leaks and sags. In addition, the front door lacks a header, so Bell stuffs a towel in to the space to try to keep the cold air out.