The developer responsible for turning Hope Island in Casco Bay into a secluded paradise, and who at one time proposed building a cable car across Portland Harbor, died at his private island residence.

John Cacoulidis died July 23 at age 85. He and his wife, Phyllis Audrey Cacoulidis, purchased Hope Island in 1993 for $1.3 million and transformed it into what a real estate listing described as a “magical island kingdom.” They built several buildings, including a massive residence, barn and tavern, and kept chickens, ducks, peacocks and horses there.

His wife, Phyllis Audrey Cacoulidis, died in 2016 at the age of 89. Cacoulidis put the island, which is a 25-minute boat ride from the mainland, on the market last year for $7.95 million.

John Cacoulidis

But on Sunday evening, his son, George Cacoulidis, revealed in a telephone interview that he has decided to take Hope Island off the market and keep it under family ownership for the foreseeable future.

“The island is a testament to my father and mother,” Cacoulidis said. “It was a very tough decision, but for now I’ve decided not to sell the island.”

The couple lived on the island for several years. According to Phyllis Cacoulidis’ obituary, the couple considered it a source of great pride and joy.


In the real estate listing from 2017, the property’s features were described as a 11,295-square-foot main house with six bathrooms and three bedrooms. It also features two guest houses, a barn with worker’s quarters, outbuildings for equipment and machinery, a 10-stall horse barn, coops for chickens, ducks and geese, a tavern for entertaining, a private chapel and a boat house with deep water pier. There is more than 11,000 feet of shoreline, a mix of rocky and sandy beaches.

George Cacoulidis, who lives in Montclair, New Jersey, said he visits the island at least a couple of times a month and will continue to spend time there.

According to his family’s obituary, John Cacoulidis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, where he served in military campaigns with the Allied forces during World War II. He later emigrated to the United States and became a U.S. citizen.

His career began in New York where he founded Grand Metro Builders of New York Corp., a company that designed, developed, managed and owned office and industrial properties. He acquired real estate holdings in both New York and Maine. In addition to his own properties, Cacoulidis was involved with the renovation of Yankee Stadium in the 1970s.

“He was very successful,” his son said. “And he came from very humble beginnings. He’d always say to me, ‘I came to this country below zero.’ ”

Cacoulidis, who had several properties in Maine, became well known here as well.


He purchased the former Portland Press Herald newspaper office building at 390 Congress St. in 2009 from Maine Today Media, publishers of the Press Herald and several other Maine publications. He gutted the interior and had planned to convert the building into an office or mixed-used building, but opted instead to sell it to a hotel developer in 2012.

The building, located between Exchange and Market streets across from Portland City Hall, has since been converted into an upscale hotel and restaurant called the Press Hotel.

He came up with another high profile, outside-the-box development idea in 2001 when he proposed a massive hotel complex and cable car system that would have crossed Portland Harbor. The $900 million hotel and convention center proposed for Cushing’s Point, near Bug Light Park in South Portland, called for a 300-foot-high cable car system and twin elliptical-shaped hotels standing 635 feet tall.

That idea never came to fruition.

“My father probably came in a little too entrepreneurial and too bold. It scared a lot of people,” his son recalled.

Cacoulidis and his wife also tried to have Hope Island secede from the town of Cumberland in 2001 after they became fed up with their local tax burden.


“We’re not against taxes, but if they tax me and give me zero services, that’s my beef,” Cacoulidis told the Associated Press in a 2001 interview.

Their efforts to form the town of Hope Island failed.

George Cacoulidis said his father was a kind and giving man.

“The measure of any man is what people remember of him,” Cacoulidis said. “I’m very proud of my father because nearly everyone who knew him said he taught them so much. He always shared his ideas, his thoughts and especially taught the younger generation.”

Cacoulidis is survived by his son, three daughters and a granddaughter.


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