In the 1970s, Louis Heindl was a member of the Virginia Boat Club, a social club that was based on Mayo Island.
At the time the club had, as Heindl recollects, between 200 and 300 members and counted governors, City Council members and well-known lawyers among its ranks. “It was a who’s who,” said Heindl, now 80.
When Hurricane Agnes hit in 1972, it flooded much of downtown Richmond, Mayo Island included. The boat club had purchased a quarter-acre piece of the 15-acre island, and in the wake of the flood the club didn’t know what to do with it.
Heindl had started his concrete business, Hanover Concrete, and was working out of his home in Church Hill. He wasn’t a real estate guy, but the club’s piece of the island included a 1,300-square-foot building, and he was in need of a space to run his company.
“The old men said, ‘What should we do with this?’ I said, ‘I’ll take it,’” Heindl recalled.
Heindl paid the boat club $13,000 for the parcel at 510 S. 14th St., which is essentially a small piece of the island’s western side abutting Mayo Bridge.
Over 50 years later, Heindl still owns the parcel, and now he finds himself wondering how he fits in with a new neighbor: the City of Richmond, which recently bought the rest of Mayo Island for $15 million with plans to turn it into public green space.
That sale had been over a year in the making. The Shaia family had owned the entire island, except for Heindl’s piece, since the 1980s and put it on the market in mid-2022. Local conservation nonprofit Capital Region Land Conservancy was initially lined up to be the buyer, but after helping secure some state funding for the purchase, CRLC stepped aside and the city moved in as the purchaser.
But for reasons that are unclear, Heindl’s section of Mayo Island wasn’t part of the deal.
Heindl said he’d spoken with the folks at CRLC when their deal started to gain momentum, but that he hasn’t heard from anyone involved in the deal in a while.
CRLC executive director Parker Agelasto said their initial conversations with Heindl were positive.
“Let’s just say I need to give Louis a call,” Agelasto said this week. “We haven’t talked for a while, and we’ll continue the conversation privately as we would with any other landowner.”
Agelasto said he doesn’t know if Heindl’s parcel is essential to what the city has planned for the rest of the island. A spokesperson for Mayor Levar Stoney’s office said that the city has not explored purchasing Heindl’s parcel as they’ve spent the last year focused on purchasing the rest of the island.
“In the coming months the City will embark on a master plan for this park, but at this time this parcel is not part of this plan,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Heindl said he’d be open to selling his slice of the island, for the right price. His property was most recently assessed by the city at $78,000.
“I don’t have any problem turning it loose,” Heindl said. “If the right offer came along, I would strongly consider selling it.”
Through the years, 510 S. 14th St. has seen a handful of uses under Heindl’s ownership. He operated his concrete business there from 1972 to 1974, before leasing it to Reynolds Metals for a few years. Wise Recycling was next in line, operating there for over 40 years.
When Wise moved out about four years ago, Heindl began operating it as a food truck court, a use that continues today.
All through that time, Heindl said prospective buyers would sometimes come knocking, including the Shaias, who a few years ago, Heindl said, offered a “pile of money for it.” That particular offer came in while Heindl was battling cancer.
“During that time I was doing radiation and chemo, and the advice from all the doctors and everybody else was, ‘Don’t make any decisions at all, on anything. You’re not thinking correctly,’” Heindl said. “Now looking back at it, they were right.”
Cindy Garrett, Heindl’s daughter, recalls another offer from a developer that came in about 15 years ago.
“They were going to build a high rise here and offered you a condo in it,” said Garrett, who was a child when her father bought the land and has memories of helping him clean up after the flood all those years ago.
Various proposed development plans for Mayo Island over the years never took off, perhaps due to it being situated in a floodplain.
Now that development is off the table – CRLC and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation are planning to place it under a conservation easement – and the city’s planning to turn the island into a park, Heindl said he’s open to making a deal with his new neighbor.
“I think it’ll be an asset to the city, and an asset to this property here,” he said of his parcel. “There’s a lot that can be done other than food trucks here.”