Krebs may lease theater

Source says Houseman owner's beaten out rival in deal

John Houseman theater owner Eric Krebs appears to have beaten out rival Ben Sprecher, owner of the Variety Arts and the Lucille Lortel, in a race to lease what will be Off Broadway’s newest theater. A source close to the deal said Krebs will soon become the new tenant in the theater, located in a still-being-renovated former Chase Manhattan bank building on Eighth Avenue and 14th Street.

But a spokesman for the property said that the ink had not yet dried, and “other qualified buyers are still being considered.” Richard Fiore, the site’s owner and renovator, isn’t talking about the list of bidders. John Farrell, VP and director of real estate for the building’s holding company, 14th Street Development, would only confirm that “we are creating a first-class, Off Broadway theater, with 350 to 499 seats.”

Leonard Soloway, one of the producers of “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” admitted to looking at the space, but then said he blanched at the $5 million dollar pricetag. Soloway this year completed a deal with business partner Steven Levy to buy the Gramercy, a former movie house, for $1.5 million. Soloway and Levy will turn it into one of Off Broadway’s largest theaters.

Krebs did not return phone calls, and Sprecher was unreachable.