Nearly 15 acres of downtown riverfront land has hit the market. The catch: it’s on an island.
Mayo Island, the 14.5-acre plot on the James River between Manchester and downtown, was listed for sale for $19 million in recent weeks.
Located at 501 S. 14th St., the island is bisected by its namesake bridge and has been owned by the Shaia family since the 1980s. The majority of the island is either undeveloped land or parking lots. There are a handful of structures on the island, including a pair of warehouses totaling about 32,000 square feet on the island’s eastern side.
Alan Shaia is marketing the island with Charter Realty as a redevelopment opportunity. Shaia said a VCU lease on a parking lot ends at the end of April, prompting them to test the hot real estate market.
“It’s a unique piece. It’s a large acreage and you don’t see that much in downtown Richmond,” Shaia said. “It’s the right time to sell it, we think. It’s a bigger development than we could do.”
Named for the Mayo family which helped lay out the grid of Richmond in the 1700s, Mayo Island previously held entertainment and industrial uses over the course of its history.
In the 1800s, the island was populated with boathouses, a sawmill, and the Mayo Field baseball park, which operated until 1940. The first iteration of the Mayo Bridge was a privately-held toll bridge in the early 1800s before Confederate soldiers burned it down in 1865 as they lost the Civil War.
More recently, a Wise Recycling plant had operated on the island for over 20 years. But that site is now occupied mostly by a food truck court.
City records show the parcels making up Mayo Island were most recently assessed at a combined $3.8 million. The island is zoned M-1 Light Industrial district. A 0.25-acre plot located just off the bridge’s western side is not included in the offering.
Shaia said the family had Mayo Island under contract to developers in 2007 who were planning to build a variety of buildings with a mix of uses including residential, office, retail and a hotel.
He said he’d be glad to see a similar project put into action on Mayo Island this time around.
“Honestly, I think you could do a nice development and retain a sizable park area. So, it’s a win-win,” Shaia said. “You’d have people living, working and playing with some of the best views of Richmond. That’s my thought.”
Shaia said they’ve received some interest already, but no agreements have been made.
While rare, it’s not entirely unusual for islands in Richmond to sell. In 2018, a group led by local outdoorsman and entrepreneur Andy Thompson bought Sharp’s Island for $35,000. The roughly 1-acre plot is adjacent to Mayo Island and is undevelopable as it sits below the flood plain.
A year later, Thompson doubled the number of islands in his portfolio with Riverside Outfitters’ $11,000 purchase of Goat Island near the Z-dam.
The listing comes as the city and state are charting a path to replace the 109-year-old Mayo Bridge, a project that could span years.
Sen. Mark Warner recently announced that $5 million in the recently-passed federal infrastructure bill has been earmarked for the Mayo Bridge replacement project, which could cost up to $80 million. CBS6 reported in late March that city officials recently said it could take two years of planning before work begins, with an additional two years of work to follow.
Shaia said he thinks the bridge replacement project could happen in conjunction with Mayo Island’s redevelopment.
“I think in the end it’ll be an advantage to the property,” Shaia said of the bridge project.