Anna Maria's Pine Avenue: the greenest little Main Street in U.S. -- historic, too

Anna Maria continues to be the little city that could. With community patrons like Mike and Lizzie Vann Thrasher providing bold leadership with their private endeavors, the island hamlet is gaining additional attention for exciting developments.

This month the Thrashers won a significant environmental award for their Historic Green Village, a cluster of old, reborn buildings which sit along Pine Avenue in the heart of the city's commercial district.

The village earned Platinum LED certification and won further distinction as a Net Zero Energy project, achievements only awarded to developments that attain the highest standards of environmentally-friendly construction.

That rare double honor has only been bestowed on about 100 projects worldwide. Earlier this month, representatives of the U.S. Green Building Council presented the couple with a plaque honoring their accomplishment, the organization's highest honor.

The Thrashers' commendable commitment to environmental practices comes at considerable expense. Their historic village covers five plats still under development.

The buildings include the bustling Village Cafe at Rosedale, a vacant Sears Cottage and the Pillsbury House, being renovated to house the city's first physician.

The 99-year-old Angler's Lodge, uprooted from its nearby plot and planted here, hosts the Relish Vintage Artisan Boutique.

In keeping with the village's historic and environmental theme, the shop sells either recycled, refashioned or vintage goods as well as items produced by local artists.

Two of the buildings, the Sears and Rosedale, earned Platinum LEED status and once work is completed on the others the Thrashers plan to apply for additional certification.

The village's solar panels generate more electricity that the buildings consume, so the Thrashers allow owners of electric vehicles and golf carts to recharge there free of charge.

Beyond solar panels, the village's technology features rainwater cisterns that provide water to flush toilets; stormwater retention for irrigation of the native landscaping; an air conditioning system with air cooled by underground water; solar-heated hot water; and building insulation that reduces energy requirements.

Of the village's five planned structures, four are historic and only one is new construction. The Thrashers are as committed to historic preservation as to the environment. Kudos to their civic spirit and community investments.

In another awards ceremony this month, restaurateur Ed Chiles received the Tourism Outreach award from the Bradenton Area Conventions and Visitors Bureau for the Pine Avenue Restoration project.

The development, which features a batch of few Key West-style buildings along Pine with shops on the ground floor and guest quarters on the second, also has been built with environmentally-friendly standards.

Chiles and his PAR partner, Michael Coleman, aren't quite finished either as construction continues.

Pine Avenue is now known as the "greenest little Main Street in America," a well deserved moniker.

The historic aspect to the street is about to grow as well. The city already boasts two historic piers, one on the Pine bayfront.

The Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum sits in an icehouse built in 1920.

The Pine Avenue grounds also hold a cracker cottage from the same era originally built as a fish packing plant at the end of City Pier and the old city jail.

Sometime in the future, the 1950s cinder block vacation home of baseball great Warren Spahn and his family will reside there, too, moved from Spruce Avenue and restored into a baseball museum.

Historic and environmental preservation are gaining ground in Anna Maria, a shining portrait of a little city that could.