Pending sale of Mayo Island gets $7.5M boost from state grant

Mayo Island totals 15 acres and sits between Shockoe and Manchester. (Google Maps)

The nearly $12 million price tag to reshape the future of Mayo Island just got a lot more manageable for its prospective buyer.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation last week awarded a $7.5 million grant to help fund the purchase of the 15-acre downtown island at 501 S. 14th St. and convert it into public greenspace.

While the buyer is slated to be local nonprofit Capital Region Land Conservancy, the state funding will be granted to the City of Richmond as part of a public-private partnership between the city and the CRLC.

Parker Agelasto, CRLC’s executive director, said the grant is a critical component to the Mayo Island project. The funds will come from the state’s Community Flood Preparedness Fund.

“It’s good news and something we were hoping for,” Agelasto said. “You have to assess where your funding is coming from for a big project like this, and the reality was these grants were there and the timing was right.”

Parker Agelasto

Agelasto said CRLC had to take on the project with the city, as a municipality must be the one that applies for DCR grants.

“It’s a public-private partnership that had to come into play to make it happen,” Agelasto said, noting that the state DCR would also play a continuing role going forward as it would co-hold the conservation easement CRLC is planning to put the island under, precluding it from future development.

Agelasto said they’re still in discussions with the city regarding how all the money will come together.

In total, the purchase and restoration of Mayo Island is set to cost $11.8 million. Prior to the latest $7.5 million grant, CRLC had already received $1.7 million for the project in the form of a $1.5 million DCR grant in November and $200,000 from private donors. Agelasto said the nonprofit is in conversations with other philanthropic sources about funding the remaining $2.6 million.

Agelasto said CRLC is scheduled to close on the island in 2023.

The majority of Mayo Island, which lies between Manchester and Shockoe Slip and sits under a 100-year floodplain, is owned by the Shaia family. The Shaias put it up for sale last spring with a price tag of $19 million. A quarter-acre piece of the island in the middle is owned by the Heindl family and is not part of the CRLC deal.

The island is also the subject of a lawsuit between the Shaias and VCU. The two sides are quarrelling over alleged missed rent payments for a parking lot on the island VCU had previously leased. A hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 17.

Mayo Island totals 15 acres and sits between Shockoe and Manchester. (Google Maps)

The nearly $12 million price tag to reshape the future of Mayo Island just got a lot more manageable for its prospective buyer.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation last week awarded a $7.5 million grant to help fund the purchase of the 15-acre downtown island at 501 S. 14th St. and convert it into public greenspace.

While the buyer is slated to be local nonprofit Capital Region Land Conservancy, the state funding will be granted to the City of Richmond as part of a public-private partnership between the city and the CRLC.

Parker Agelasto, CRLC’s executive director, said the grant is a critical component to the Mayo Island project. The funds will come from the state’s Community Flood Preparedness Fund.

“It’s good news and something we were hoping for,” Agelasto said. “You have to assess where your funding is coming from for a big project like this, and the reality was these grants were there and the timing was right.”

Parker Agelasto

Agelasto said CRLC had to take on the project with the city, as a municipality must be the one that applies for DCR grants.

“It’s a public-private partnership that had to come into play to make it happen,” Agelasto said, noting that the state DCR would also play a continuing role going forward as it would co-hold the conservation easement CRLC is planning to put the island under, precluding it from future development.

Agelasto said they’re still in discussions with the city regarding how all the money will come together.

In total, the purchase and restoration of Mayo Island is set to cost $11.8 million. Prior to the latest $7.5 million grant, CRLC had already received $1.7 million for the project in the form of a $1.5 million DCR grant in November and $200,000 from private donors. Agelasto said the nonprofit is in conversations with other philanthropic sources about funding the remaining $2.6 million.

Agelasto said CRLC is scheduled to close on the island in 2023.

The majority of Mayo Island, which lies between Manchester and Shockoe Slip and sits under a 100-year floodplain, is owned by the Shaia family. The Shaias put it up for sale last spring with a price tag of $19 million. A quarter-acre piece of the island in the middle is owned by the Heindl family and is not part of the CRLC deal.

The island is also the subject of a lawsuit between the Shaias and VCU. The two sides are quarrelling over alleged missed rent payments for a parking lot on the island VCU had previously leased. A hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 17.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
1 month ago

Wonderful work Parker! You’ve found your calling. Now, let’s close that bridge to traffic and make a first class park out of Mayo, saving the taxpayers over $100 Million.

Erik Colley
Erik Colley
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

I second this dreamy motion.

SA Chaplin
SA Chaplin
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Heartily agree, Bruce. In fact, I’ll “see” your pedestrian bridge and raise you one: Ponte Vecchio in Florence (Firenze), Italy includes shops and kiosks. Just imagine Mayo’s Bridge with food carts and such.

Peter James
Peter James
1 month ago
Reply to  SA Chaplin

And just imagine what happens to alllllll those shops, kiosks, food carts, etc., when the James has another “100 year flood” — particularly considering that the 14th Street Bridge is built within/below the flood plain (which is the whole crux of the argument AGAINST developing Mayo’s Island for commercial/office/retail and residential use). Also consider than any flooding comparable to what happened in 1969, ’72 and ’85 would actually be worse given that those events reach levels that either submerged or nearly submerged the bridge and completely inundated the island WITHOUT flood walls along the river’s north and south banks. Absent… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter James
Peter James
Peter James
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Normally, I don’t disagree with you as you are indeed the expert on all things related to Richmond’s CRE industry. But on this one – the only way I could personally support closing the 14th Street Bridge would be if some form of light rail connection between Shockoe Bottom and Manchester along/adjacent to the bridge corridor were built connecting S. 14th Street with Hull Street. Obviously, it would have to be up high enough to be well above and out of the flood plain – and who knows how much even a very short-haul line like that would cost. But… Read more »

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
28 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

Unfortunately his idea effectively cuts Manchester and Shockoe off from each other for any type of business activity. That stretch of Mayo Bridge is simply too long to encourage pedestrian commuting beyond recreational.

Brett Themore
Brett Themore
1 month ago

Closing the bridge? Maybe that proposal should be called – How to kill the rapidly developing Hull st commercial corridor. No thank you. Renovate it into a world class bridge serving safe separated pedestrian access, recreational fishing, and vehicular traffic… plenty of parks in the world have vehicular crossings and do just fine.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
1 month ago
Reply to  Brett Themore

There are 18 lanes of traffic on three other bridges available within less than a mile from 14th Street. All of them were built out of the flood zone. The designed replacement bridge for Mayo is within the flood zone. The cost to replace the bridge is $100M, yet engineers say that the current piers (which will not be used) still have a life of 400 years. there will be no recreational fishing allowed on the new bridge. All over the world bridges are being closed in urban areas to facilitate pedestrian use. There will be no damage to the… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

See above on my reluctance to disagree with you. To your points: 18 lanes of traffic – that with the exception of the admittedly VASTLY underutilized Manchester Bridge are way out of the way for someone who might live in “lower” Manchester (as in – the Hull Street corridor close to the riverfront). The Lee Bridge barely skirts Manchester (and Cowardin Avenue is the boundary between Manchester and Swansboro) – and I-95 bypasses it altogether. Using EITHER of those options is akin to the old adage of “going around your elbow to scratch your tuchus” 😂 That leaves the Manchester… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter James
Lee Thomas
Lee Thomas
30 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

What if, instead of light rail, they did a series of covered or even enclosed moving walkways? I know this sounds odd, but I imagine it would be much cheaper to build, operate, and maintain, could make the walk “safe” from the weather, faster, comfortable for people who mostly just want to stand there.

It might offer a potential retail/commercial development opportunity at each end as well, though that seems like something to be cautious about/would have to be done very carefully

Lee Thomas
Lee Thomas
28 days ago
Reply to  Lee Thomas

Welp, seems like folks hate this idea. But I’d love to know why or hear some better suggestions, rather than just the down votes, lol

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
27 days ago
Reply to  Lee Thomas

Light rail is a non-starter.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
28 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

Peter, to keep the discussion alive, what if there would be one lane remaining open for a commuter bus (only) and it’s movements be coordinated by the existing stoplights on either side of the bridge? That would serve the same purpose as a dramatically more expensive rail system. The bus would have one stop at the island mid-point. I think the food truck idea could work if coordinated times are observed for setting up and withdrawal but it would be delicate. I’d prefer their market be set up at a site off of the bridge or not at all. I’d… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
27 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Bruce – thanks for responding! Re: Bus connection: Yes!! Specifically, something akin to a mini BRT line would work – and it certainly would be significantly less expensive than light rail. The idea is to maintain a viable connection between lower Manchester and Shockoe Bottom, which is eliminated if we close the bridge to vehicular traffic. I’d just as soon skip the station on the island itself – the bigger function is to keep the throughput connection of S. 14th Street and Hull Street intact. I’m with you in preferring the island be commercial free for a variety of reasons.… Read more »

Last edited 27 days ago by Peter James
Peter James
Peter James
27 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

A final point: I realize building this out as a legit short-haul BRT line might not work financially – but I’d really like to see something a little more robust than just another “regular” bus route to maintain this connection between the Bottom and Manchester. Even though it would be super cost friendly relative to the other options, a regular, surface-level (on the bridge) bus route just feels SO ridiculously watered down. If we’re going to close the bridge to vehicles, then we need to counterbalance that with something of REAL substance – not a “this ‘solution’ will do because… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
27 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

“watered down” compared to what? “some money” — spoken by someone who is used to thinking that they should be allowed to spend others money as THEY see fit, and not the taxpayers.

Are they charging people to use the Pulse yet?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
27 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

I think urbanist Transit Dreams would be even LESS viable on Hull than on Broad — Hull is tight, not broad.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
27 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

Meanwhile, I am ALL FOR dedicated bike/pedestrian infrastructure — turning that bridge into such would certainly have some downsides, but I think they would be outweighed by more bike friendliness.

Meanwhile, the expense that Mr. Milam is talking about should not just be waved away as a consideration.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
1 month ago

Almost makes me think of City Island is Harrisburg, but without the baseball stadium.

Chris Crews
Chris Crews
28 days ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

At one point, Tate Field was on Mayo Island and was home to Richmond baseball.

Peter James
Peter James
27 days ago
Reply to  Chris Crews

Chris – yes indeed! Tate Field was home to the Richmond Colts.

Babe Ruth has long been legend for having supposedly homered into the James from Tate Field. However, while Ruth and the Yankees did indeed play some exhibition games at Tate – it was not Ruth who homered into “the ruvvah”. Rather, it was the Iron Horse himself – the legendary Lou Gehrig – who smashed a tater into the waters of the mighty James.

Last edited 27 days ago by Peter James
Brian Glass
Brian Glass
1 month ago

Parker should reach out to the Arbor Day Foundation. They are involved with tree plantings that could be a cost savings down the road.

I agree with Bruce Milam’s suggestion to close the bridge to traffic, if that’s possible.

Gordon Laroussini
Gordon Laroussini
28 days ago

I sincerely hope that part of the plan includes removing the HORRIBLE Lottery sign and not including any advertising on the island. It would be nice if the company that owns the sign step forward and do so in the best interest of the city image.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
28 days ago

It would be easy to get the state to cease advertising on it, but perhaps not easy to get the advertising ceased altogether. It depends on the terms of their lease.

Leon Phoenix
Leon Phoenix
25 days ago

Again, a public space like Yorktown Beach should be the goal….. with trees and grass and room for kiosks, food trucks, live music, and restrooms of course.