Two groups of private developers stepped forward six years ago when they saw historic Pine Avenue on the north end of Anna Maria Island in jeopardy of becoming yet another generic residential street. Restaurateur and developer Ed Chiles, Holmes Beach investor Ted LaRoche and Massachusetts transplant Micheal Coleman started at one end; and Lizzie Vann Thrasher and her husband, Michael Thrasher, began work at the other end of the street. They’ve built mixed-use structures, remodeled historic buildings, and incorporated green construction and technology, making the project—which could total $20 million—one of the top 10 green projects in Florida. “It’s the greenest little Main Street in America,” says Chiles.
The Right Path
Concrete sidewalks are being removed to install shell pathways to discourage runoff into the bay and Gulf. The paths will be right up against the buildings, keeping pedestrians away from the street and closer to retail businesses.
Chiles, Coleman and LaRoche, partners in The Pine Avenue Restoration Project, built eight new Gulf Coast Cracker-style mixed-use buildings, designed by Sarasota architect Gene Aubry to meet Florida Green Building standards. Each includes retail on the bottom floor and two- and three-bedroom vacation rentals overlooking the street on the second floor. Three more buildings like this are planned.
The Thrashers have invested $6 million to restore five buildings on Pine Avenue, including a 1935 Sears Cottage (new home of Relish, a vintage clothing store) and the 98-year-old Angler’s Lodge to create what they hope will be Florida’s first LEED Platinum and Net Zero Energy retail park.
Gulf to Bay
At the beginning of the 20th century, Pine Avenue was Anna Maria Island’s “Main Street.” Visitors would arrive by steamer at the City Pier on Tampa Bay and stroll down Pine Avenue to a bathhouse where the Sandbar Restaurant now stands.
The Anna Maria Historic Green Village, developed by the Thrashers, will be powered by solar and geothermal technology and use rain harvesting techniques for inside water use and landscaping. Eventually, the project should feed energy back to the grid.
The new retail spaces have created 50 jobs.
Grass Be Gone
Florida native plants are replacing grass and exotic species along the street and in front of the buildings.