Jay Z may have 99 problems, as he once rapped, but lacking a place in New Orleans is no longer one.
As word spread last week that celebrated part-time New Orleans residents Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had put their French Quarter mansion on the market, evidence surfaced almost simultaneously that perhaps the only couple with comparable star wattage to “Brangelina” — Jay Z and his wife, pop star Beyoncé Knowles — were buying their own Crescent City home.
Rumors began to swirl on social media that the hip-hop power couple were the secret buyers behind the recent sale of a 13,292-square-foot mansion in the 1500 block of Harmony Street in the Garden District.
The purchase was first reported last week by the website Curbed NOLA, which tracks real estate transfers and connected the dots using various public records.
Real estate listings in February show that the Garden District property was transferred for “$100 and other valuable consideration” from its previous owner, Sandra McNamara, to Sugarcane Park LLC. The true sales prices of high-end properties are often kept out of public records.
A review of records kept by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office for Sugarcane Park LLC shows a principal business address of Parkwood Entertainment LLC in New York, which is Beyoncé’s company.
A message sent to Parkwood went unreturned Monday.
Beyoncé and Jay Z — whose real name is Shawn Carter — have visited New Orleans numerous times in recent years, popping up at the Country Club, among other local venues. Beyoncé’s sister, singer Solange Knowles, married video director Alan Ferguson at the Marigny Opera House last year in a ceremony attended by Jay Z and Beyoncé.
The Garden District property is a converted 1927 Spanish Baroque-style building located a half-block from St. Charles Avenue. It’s recalled by some longtime residents as the former Westminster Presbyterian Church or as the home of Ballet Hysell, a company led by Harvey Hysell.
Reached by phone Monday, the property’s listing agent, Britt Galloway, of Keller Williams Realtors, declined comment on the sale, saying only that the property was sold to “out-of-town buyers.”
McNamara, the most recent owner, purchased the property in 2001 for $500,000, according to Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office records. The latest assessment of the building and land put its total value at $1.6 million.
McNamara undertook a major renovation of the property, she told The New Orleans Advocate in a recent interview. That effort included replacing the home’s electrical, heating, cooling and plumbing systems.
“We added new structures, relocated the elevator shaft, closed in the front yard and added an amazing living green roof — currently the largest in New Orleans,” McNamara said at the time.
After its previous stints as a church and a ballet school, the property was converted to residential use about 2000. It still features original hardwood floors, columns and molding. The owners’ quarters, which account for more than 9,800 square feet, include a sitting room, an office with exposed beam ceilings and plenty of storage.
The six-bedroom residence, which has six full bathrooms and two half baths, also has three one-bedroom apartments with entrances on the side street that boast original woodwork, molding and columns.
The asking price for the property was $2.5 million.
That’s less than half of the $6.5 million Pitt and Jolie are asking for their French Quarter mansion. The couple bought the place in 2007 for $3.5 million, at a time when Pitt poured himself into an effort to build new energy-efficient homes in the Lower 9th Ward for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
A spokeswoman for the couple said they remain committed to New Orleans.