Weeks after it was listed for sale at $19 million, Mayo Island and its owners are wrapped up in a legal dispute with Virginia Commonwealth University that centers on a parking lease, a bus shelter and an apparent city permitting delay that may have set the whole thing off.
Earlier this month Mayo Island’s ownership group filed a lawsuit against VCU, alleging that the university hasn’t paid its $24,000-per-month parking lot lease on the island in nearly a year. VCU has rented the lot on the nearly 15-acre plot since 2014.
Mayo’s Island L.C., an entity tied to Fred Shaia, owns Mayo Island and is the plaintiff in the case. It seeks $240,000 in damages, the amount it claims VCU owes for 10 months of back rent, as well as interest and attorney’s fees. The state comptroller and Attorney General of Virginia are also named as defendants in the suit.
VCU’s lease on the parking lot on Mayo Island expired at the end of April. However, the suit alleges that it had attempted to terminate the lease last year due to a supposed failure by the landlord to meet certain lease terms.
The main term in question is a clause that was allegedly added to the lease in 2019 regarding a bus shelter on the premises. The ownership group allegedly needed to receive permits from the city to install the bus shelter, but VCU claims the landlord violated the lease term by not obtaining the permit.
However, the Mayo Island group claims it was unable to receive the permits in question because it didn’t receive a response from the city for nearly two years and it came after VCU sought to terminate the lease in April 2021.
“VCU is not able to exercise the termination clause … because the plaintiff did file with the City of Richmond to obtain the proper permits,” the suit states. “The City, through no fault or inaction by the plaintiff, did not give answer to that permit process until July 1, 2021.” The group claims it had last heard from the city in August 2019, according to the suit.
“The lack of any answer from the City of Richmond created (a) legal impossibility,” the suit states.
The suit states that the island’s owners ultimately completed the work without a permit and that “VCU did secure a bus shelter on the property” at an unspecified point in time, only to see it be removed by the university in July 2021.
VCU and the Attorney General’s office declined to comment, stating they could not comment on pending litigation. Thomas Shaia and Andrea Shaia Bade are representing Fred Shaia in the case and declined to comment.
A response had not been filed as of press time.
The island, which sits at 501 S. 14th St. between Manchester and downtown Richmond, was listed for sale earlier this spring with an asking price of $19 million. The Shaia family has owned the property since the 1980s. Most of the island is either undeveloped land or parking lots.
The family said last month that the listing was an effort to test the hot real estate market, prompted by the expected April end date of VCU’s lease.
The lawsuit marks at least the second time this year a parking lot has been at the heart of a local legal dispute. Two Scott’s Addition developers are currently entangled in a battle over a 51-spot lot.