One of Buckhead’s largest homes with a colorful history sells after years on the market

The iconic house at 490 West Paces Ferry is across the street from notable homes Villa Juanita and the GA Governor's Mansion. Photo by Rob Knight

The home at 490 West Paces Ferry Road features massive dimensions, is lavishly outfitted, and has been featured in blockbuster movies. It once had an owner with a pet lion, is embellished with $2 million in gold gilding, and has ties to a reality TV star — and those are far from the only reasons it is notable. After several years on and off the market, the two-acre property featuring an over-the-top 25,000-square-foot mansion was recently sold. 

The home, which sits on a 2.05-acre property across from Tuxedo Road near the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, was purchased for $8.5 million by a local family who already lived nearby. 

A mega mansion with attention-grabbing style 

The sales listing notes the home totals nearly 25,000 square feet with nine bedrooms, 12 full bathrooms, and six half-baths. It also features 19 fireplaces, a four-car garage, three grilling areas with a Hibachi grille and brick pizza oven, two owner’s suites, and a grand foyer with a custom staircase.  Other highlights include a courtyard-style pool and spa, a “grand salon,” a movie theater with tiered seating for up to 18, elevator, three wine cellars, game room and bar, recording studio, hair salon, and more. 

Perhaps even more attention grabbing is the home’s eccentric styling that appears to be inspired by a Mediterranean villa. Amenities include 10-carat gold leaf ceilings, limestone and Moroccan hardwood floors, and furnishings from custom design firms like Phyllis Morris of LA, Maitland-Smith, and others. 

The home’s outlandish style is the result of a massive renovation undertaken by its former owner, “Big Papa” Lee Najjar. A real estate investor, Najjar was portrayed as the “sugar daddy” of Kim Zolciak-Biermann of Real Housewives of Atlanta fame. The home has been featured in films such as Zombieland and the 2012 “Three Stooges”, and on HGTV’s “Million Dollar Rooms,” according to Yahoo. It was also shown on MTV Cribs. 

The home’s history dates back over a century 

The property has a long-standing history. The original 7,500-square-foot home was built around 1910, according to an Atlanta Journal Constitution article from 1996. In 1914, during the original building period of the great estates lining West Paces Ferry Road, the Jackson-Alsop-Arnold House, as it was then known, was renovated and expanded by architectural firm Hentz, Reid and Adler, who were also responsible for the design of several other well-known homes in the area. 

The home was later renovated and expanded in 1996 by then owner and builder Jacque Fowler. The renovations included the Mediterranean-themed styling that carries over to the current house. It was then dubbed Villa Banderas after Fowler’s lion cub pet, Banderas. 

A tumultuous sales history 

Barry Milam, a real estate broker and custom home builder in the Atlanta area, was the listing agent of the home for over five years and actually lived on the property as caretaker for several years between 2017-22. He said the build quality of the home is exceptional. 

“I’ve built homes for over 50 years, and the craftsmanship is simply like nothing I’ve ever seen in Atlanta,” Milam said.  

The home was listed in 2009 for a staggering $25 million, making it reportedly the most expensive asking price in the Atlanta area at the time. However, prospective buyers apparently felt it wasn’t worth its eyebrow-raising price or took issue with its unique design, so it remained unsold for years.

Milam believes the styling was a case of “love it” or “hate it” for many prospective buyers. 

“The uniqueness of the interior, that’s what either appealed to people or turned them away,” he said. “I feel if it had been in L.A. or Miami, it would have been sold very quickly. But in Atlanta’s traditional market, I feel it took a special customer. It’s certainly one of the most unique homes in Atlanta.” 

The listing price was reduced to $15.9 million in 2014, but later that year it shot back up to near the original asking price of $25 million before quickly falling again. 

The deed records on the home are a jumble of unusual transfers, but in 2015 Najjar lost the home to foreclosure. It was then sold by the mortgage lender for a bargain-basement price of $1.358 million on the Fulton County courthouse steps to a private investor from California who immediately relisted it at $18.8 million. It has been on and off the market since. 

One aspect of its on/off listings, Milam says, is a rash of bad luck at the 11th hour during the sales process, at least while he was the listing agent. 

“It went under contract on several occasions,” he said. “We sold it to a famous rapper, we sold it to a California movie director, we sold to several people, but every time some late issue came up, so it never got past due diligence. It was just very unusual circumstances.” 

The home finally found a new buyer after being listed in September 2022 for $9.98 million and later dropped to $8.995 million in March. It was sold June 30 through an $8.5 million cash offer. The new owners are already making it their own and will be moving in soon. It appears the home’s days of drama are now history. 

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