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Kansas Woman Refuses To Sell Home As KU Hospital Expands Around Her

People who live near the University of Kansas Hospital — particularly those across the state line in the Kansas City, Mo., Volker neighborhood  — talk about the medical center as the "behemoth" in the neighborhood.

Linda Mawby isn't one of them. And she's arguably the person most affected — at least at this point — by the hospital's growth.

The 67-year-old former truck driver lives with her cats and a dog in a brown house at the top of a hill  just north of the hospital, right where plans are underway for the institution to build two new towers and additional parking.

The house is surrounded by a few aging trees and a chain link fence. On the other side of the fence, in all directions, Mawby looks out over more than 14 acres of fresh dirt and graded land.

“I guess everyone else felt they had to sell," Mawby says of her neighbors whose homes have gradually been bought up by the hospital over the last decade. "They didn't! They’ve always offered me market-and-a half, which I guess is what they offered everyone, but I don’t want to sell. Why would I?"

Polsinelli law firm attorney F. Chase Simmons is an attorney for the hospital. In a telephone interview, he declined to discuss how much the hospital had or would consider offering Mawby for her property.

"We've always made it known we're interested," Simmons said. "She knows we're prepared to sit down and work out a deal." 

Not just a house

As we investigated the state line as part of our exploration for KCUR's Beyond Our Borders project, we heard on a number of occasions about the brown house on the hill. But no one seemed to know who lived there.

So, on an uncharacteristically warm, winter afternoon I went to the house. 

I found Mawby outside, sitting on a blanket in the grass, her gray hair covered by a baseball cap — which was covered by a scarf tied under her chin. She sat on her folded legs like a yoga teacher with her feisty poodle-mix  "Bo" on her lap, clipping the dog's hair.

“This is a historic building,” Mawby says as the dog leaps to the ground and she jumps up to show me the original cedar siding on her house. “It was built in 1907 and passed down through generations. I have the original deeds."

Though Mawby's home was built 108 years ago, it does not have an official historic designation.

But her commitment to staying isn't only about historic preservation, it's about a sense of place. She's lived there almost 30 years and has made a lot of improvements on the house. She says she feels rooted here.

"I know my family will sell when I die," Mawby says without resentment. "I just hope they use the money for something useful."

No hard feelings

Negotiations with the hospital always have been "friendly and amiable," according to Mawby. She has the cell phone numbers of the project supervisors who've told her to call whenever she has a question or concern. They left some old evergreen trees at the edge of the property at her request.

And Simmons, the Polsinelli attorney, said they've always kept Mawby apprised of how the project is moving forward. Indeed, a December 2014 letter from Simmons informs Mawby she will be getting a "paved residential entrance,"  since construction took out the alley she'd always used to get to her house.

The letter goes on to say "As you know, the Hospital ... wants to purchase your property. Please advise  if you want to discuss a possible purchase or any other matter."

Not an option, insists Mawby. Not at any price.  

"It's priceless," she said. "It's my home."

This look at the Missouri-Kansas state line is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders  and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them. Be a source for Beyond Our Borders: Share your perspective and experiences on the state line with KCUR.

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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