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Street Smarts: Historic Anna Maria Island’s Pine Avenue Bustles, Savvy Builders with Green Dreams

Jun 26, 2017 03:17PM ● Published by Kevin

Photo by Beth Luberecki.

Gallery: Street Smarts - Anna Maria Island's Pine Avenue - July/August 2017 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

The Greenest Little Main Street in America. The Rodeo Drive of Anna Maria Island.

Pine Avenue has been called a lot of things. But the one thing you can’t call it: underutilized.

That wasn’t always the case, though, says Michael Coleman, buying his first lot on Pine Avenue back in 2003. “It was like tumbleweeds going down the street,” he says. “There was nothing going on.”

Photo by Beth Luberecki.

Fast-forward to today and the scene is much different. Locals and tourists flock to the new center of the island’s Anna Maria community, due west of Bradenton in west Florida’s Gulf coast. Commercial cracker-style buildings are loaded with boutiques, restaurants and other goodies, folks strolling along sandy pathways, pedaling bikes down the avenue, pulling up in golfcarts for a cup of coffee and some conversation.

Pine Avenue is about Florida charm and character, much of which Coleman helped make happen. After building a house on Pine Avenue, he joked to his wife that they should raise $10 million and “buy Pine Avenue.” But the more he talked about the idea, the more it took shape.

Coleman would partner with Ed Chiles, son of late Florida governor Lawton Chiles and the owner of several local restaurants, and the two got busy, in a couple of months buying 21 properties on Pine Avenue. Their early commercial construction in old Florida architecture added historic charm and character. “I call this responsive development,” says Coleman, “that when it was done, it would look like it had always been there. It just sort of fits in.”

When Chiles wanted green components in those first buildings, Coleman pushed for energy-efficient, insulated concrete blocks, for example. The next buildings incorporated advanced insulation, hot-water systems and windows. The pair also included native plants for landscaping. “If you plant the plants that are supposed to be here, then you don’t have to give them nutrients or irrigate them much once they’re established,” says Coleman. “They’re where they’re supposed to be, so they’re happy little campers.”

The end result? Nine of the 11 new structures received platinum LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, ratings from the Florida Green Building Coalition (the first buildings are rated gold). “I’m blessed with partners that, in a world where folks are often cutting corners to save money, we added corners and spent money because it was the outcome that we were after,” says Coleman.

The new buildings are elegant in pastels, with big front porches, metal roofs, staggered positioning along the avenue. Inside them are businesses such as Bella by the Sea, concrete floors and gray walls setting off the women’s clothing, jewelry and handbags. “This is where the action is,” says owner Jo-Ann Lefner. “I wanted to be in an area where there was great traffic and a lot of tourists.”

Boasting turquoise walls, a driftwood-covered counter area and cool shelving made with rope, Salon Salon offers massages, facials, manicures and other beauty services. “We love the openness of our space and we love our location,” says co-owner Annie Petit.

Coleman and Chile’s project has helped liven Pine Avenue, which is home to the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum. Photos and artifacts help tell the story of the island’s early days―George Emerson Bean in 1892 became Anna Maria’s first official homesteader.

Your visit can include
charming downtown shops
and diners.
Photo by Beth Luberecki.

On the northeast end of Pine Avenue near the Anna Maria City Pier, the Historic Green Village serves as another example of environmentally/socially conscious development. It’s a collection of early 20th-century structures rehabbed or moved to the site, along with some newer construction. Today those buildings are occupied by a general store, bakery and bookshop. The village boasts LEED platinum status and is a net-zero-energy campus―solar panels, rainwater collection and reuse and geothermal air-conditioning.

This new life that’s been given to Pine Avenue has provided Anna Maria with a social hub and a charming retail district. “Without a business district, you’re just a bedroom community,” says Coleman.

Written by Beth Luberecki, a Venice, Florida-based freelance writer and regular contributor to TOTI Media.

If You Go

Pine Avenue is in the city of Anna Maria, population about 1,700, which is at the northern end of Anna Maria Island, a barrier island in Florida’s Manatee County. 

Details are at pineavenueinfo.com

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