IBM’s Watson Agrees to Relocate to Midtown South Tower

International Business Machines Corp. agreed to lease 120,000 square feet in a new tower in Manhattan’s East Village for its Watson Group, developer of the technology that beat “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings.

IBM, based in Armonk, New York, will bring the occupancy of the Fumihiko Maki-designed building at 51 Astor Place to 73 percent, said Ed Minskoff, founder of developer Minskoff Equities. The 400,000-square-foot (37,000-square-meter), 12-story tower was completed about four months ago, he said.

Minskoff started construction in the aftermath of the credit crash without any tenants committed. The project tested the appetite of New York’s technology and media companies for new offices at a time when they were flocking to converted factories and warehouses elsewhere in the area known as Midtown South, roughly from 30th to Canal streets.

“I always said from the day we announced we were going to develop this property, it would lease after people could walk through it,” Minskoff said in a telephone interview. “Now that they’re walking through it, the response from most of the people we’re doing deals with is, ‘Wow.’”

As part of the deal, the tower will be named the IBM Watson Building, Minskoff said. Watson is cloud-based technology that answers questions in plain language and learns from the responses. It’s known for beating Jennings after he won a record 74 straight “Jeopardy!” matches against other humans in 2011.

Lori Bosio, a spokeswoman for IBM, declined to comment on the lease.

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Minskoff declined to reveal terms of the agreement, saying only that it would be for between 10 and 20 years. He said in general, tenants are paying rents that are “in the range” of the $88 to $115 a square foot he said he was seeking in 2012.

Facebook Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. last year took space in buildings completed in the early 20th century. Facebook is leasing offices at 770 Broadway, which is across the street from 51 Astor Place.

“Our entrance looks straight into their space,” Minskoff said. “All that did was reinforce in my mind the value of the Astor Place location.”

Watson’s move to Manhattan was reported by Forbes on its website on Jan. 8.

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