No more Moore's: SPCA sale site sold

Take a good look at the old Moore's Lumber building on Pantops– it won't be there much longer.

Developer Bill Dittmar purchased the five-acre site from Cosner Brothers owner Grant Cosner last month and says he plans to tear down the orange and white corrugated steel warehouse to make way for "four or five" office buildings. Dittmar declined to reveal the purchase price until closing next month.

But while Dittmar is excited about his "very preliminary plans," a few other organizations are less than thrilled.

"I've got one word for local building owners," says SPCA Board Chair Jenny Mead: "Help!"

The SPCA has held "six or seven" rummage sales at the Moore's building since the animal rescue group began using the space in 2001, says Mead. The space– with 15,000 square feet, onsite parking, and proximity to town– was ideal for the semi-annual fundraiser that typically nets between $105,000 and $180,000 and helped the nonprofit build its new multi-million dollar headquarters on Berkmar Drive.

Making the deal even sweeter for the SPCA: Cosner offered the space for free, keeping overhead for the nonprofit's sale to a minimum.

"They were incredibly generous," says Mead of Cosner and his wife, Barbara, who purchased the property in 2000 for $2 million. (At that time, Moore's had already purchased Phillips Building Supply on Rio Road and had moved its operations. In November, an East Coast lumber supplier, the Strober Organization, bought 19 Moore's locations, including the Charlottesville store.)

Cosner says he bought the former Moore's property as an investment, and never had plans to develop it himself. He says he considered finding a long-term tenant, but when none materialized, he decided to cash out.

Because the property was on the market for several years, Cosner says, the SPCA had ample warning that they'd need a new space.

Mead agrees. "We knew that sooner or later we would lose the building," she says.

It's not the first time the SPCA has had to scramble for a sale location. In fact, Mead says that before discovering the Moore's building, the SPCA struggled almost every year to find the perfect spot– using both the Harris Teeter space at Barracks Road and the Frank Ix building at various points.

Now, with property values soaring and developers eyeing almost every square foot of empty space, Mead is concerned.

"We're kind of dependent on building owners who have a little time," she says. "We need at least a month and a half to set up, hold the sale, and tear down."

The SPCA isn't alone in its predicament. The Salvation Army and the Boy Scouts also benefited from the Cosners' generosity at the Moore's building.

"Finding warehousing space in Charlottesville is a daunting issue," says Boy Scout exec Harold Tate. The Boy Scouts have used the Moore's building four days each year to receive "a lot" of popcorn, which the scouts sell as a fundraiser.

The Salvation Army, which has used the Moore's building for its Christmastime "Angel Tree" gift distribution, will also be looking for a new home after this year's event.

Salvation Army Major Bruce Smith did not return the Hook's call by press time.

The SPCA, however, is under the most pressure since its next sale is slated for spring– just a little more than three months away.

"We're back at square one," says Mead. "We're looking for the next Grant Cosner."

The Moore's building will be demolished to make way for offices.