When Elsie Clark was 86 years old, she got an award for fighting thestate's plans to buy the Bloomsbury Square housing project, her homesince 1950.
Three years after being lauded for her efforts by theAnnapolis Housing Authority, the still-feisty Clark is ready to go at it again, following an announcement Monday that the state plans to buy the housing development for about $5 million.
"I'll fight it," Clark said. "I ain't going to consider it, because I ain't gonna move. I'm plenty satisfied here. Moving, at my age? It'd be a shame to tear these places down, after they renovated them all nice."
The state has wanted to buy Bloomsbury Square from the city housing agency for more than 20 years. The last attempt, in 1987, ended in a federal lawsuit and a judge's order for the housing authority to renovate 21 of the project's 51 units. The work was completed a year ago at a cost of $2.5 million.
State officials want to expand the adjacent House of Delegates Lowe Office Building and build aparking garage on the Bloomsbury Square site. However, Harold Greene, the housing authority's executive director, said the agency will sell the property only if it leads to home ownership for some public housing residents and if tenants approve of the deal.
Residents say the state's offer would have to be awfully good to get them to leave Bloomsbury Square, considered a model public housing project.
"I hope to stay here 'til the Lord calls me home," said Margaret Forrester, 56. "This is the nicest place I've ever lived. You don't have to worry about any of the problems of today, youths and traffic and drugs. It's a lovely place. To put all that money in there and turn aroundand sell it, it's foolish. We don't have enough homes for people as things are."
Geraldine Butler, 43, moved to Bloomsbury Square fromNewtowne 20, another Annapolis public housing project, three years ago.
"I'm not going anywhere," Butler said. "I love it here. You know about all these drugs in other neighborhoods. I don't want to go back in there."
A few residents said they would move only if the housing authority built a place as nice as Bloomsbury Square.
"If they built another nice place, I might go," said Dorothy Harris, 69. "But that's not too certain. Who knows what it would be like in a year or so?"
A few residents believe the state eventually will get whatit wants.
"They've wanted this place for a long time, and one of these days, time is going to run out," said one resident, who asked not to be identified. "It's too bad. This is the most peace I've had in my life," said the woman, who once lived in Harbour House, a drug-plagued city housing project.
Greene agreed that time may be running out for Bloomsbury Square residents.
"At the rate they're going,(the state is) going to make an offer we can't refuse," he said. "They keep upping the ante. But they've got to satisfy an awful lot of people. We're a long way from that."
Residents say they like Bloomsbury Square because it is peaceful and centrally located and the apartments are in good condition.
Clark's apartment is clean and well-maintained. She does her part to keep Bloomsbury Square neat, planting flowers, raking leaves and cutting the grass with a 40-year-old push mower.
The first 21 units in Bloomsbury Square, located betweenthe House office and Department of General Services buildings, were built in 1939 as housing for the U.S. Navy. Clark moved there in 1950with her husband, George, when he retired from the nearby U.S. NavalAcademy with tuberculosis, the result of a mustard gas attack duringWorld War I. He died in 1980.
The city housing authority bought the property in the early 1950s, and the Clarks remained. Clark lived in the same apartment until 1987, when she moved to a new unit duringthe renovations.
When the Clarks first moved to Bloomsbury Square, a train station stood where the General Services and House office buildings are now. In the years since, she's watched the state encroach further on her neighborhood with buildings and parking lots.
"They got half the town now, and they want the other half," she said. "They don't care who they run out."