By Gavin Gibbon
Arabian Business looks at the billion dollar developments as the kingdom diversifies its economy and throws its doors open to tourists
Increased government spending and progress on giga-project developments are providing a catalyst for future investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom is pouring billions into a suite of gigaprojects, transport and mobility schemes, such as Riyadh Metro, designed to wean the country off its dependence on hydrocarbons and throw open its doors to tourists from around the world.
Here Arabian Business looks at some of the developments that are currently progressing in Saudi Arabia.
Completion date: 2025
The $500 billion project, which is being built on the Red Sea coast, was unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 and comprises a 26,500km² area in Tabuk, in the far north-west of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Crown Prince has previously said Neom will be completed in 2025, and phase one is nearing completion.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, proposals for the new city include Jetson-style futuristic ideas such as flying taxis, cloud seeding to reduce the temperature and make it rain, houses cleaned by robotic maids, healthcare scientists on site to modify residents’ genes to make them stronger and the “highest rate of Michelin-starred restaurants per inhabitant”.
The design plans also included a Jurassic Park-style island to be home to robot dinosaurs, glow-in-the-dark sand on the beaches, robotic martial arts experts as entertainment and exercise, top level security such as drones and facial-recognition to track residents at all times and, most controversially, a proposal to make alcohol available in some parts of the city.
One proposal apparently favoured by the Crown Prince was to have a giant artificial moon that would light up the sky each night and could have images beamed on to it.
Completion date: 2030
Extending over 28,000 square kilometres – an area about the size of Belguim - on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, the Red Sea Project was announced by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in July 2017.
The tourist-driven project will offer a uniquely diverse range of experiences, from island getaways to resort holidays, mountain retreats and desert adventures, with luxury resorts that it has been claimed will rival Dubai and the Maldives.
The first five apartment buildings are expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year and the remaining five by Q4, delivering a total of 300 apartments.
The development will also include a marina, entertainment facilities, an airport, and the necessary supporting logistics and utilities infrastructure.
When fully-completed in 2030, the Red Sea Development Company expects the development to create as many as 70,000 jobs and contribute as much as SAR$5.9bn ($1.3bn) to the kingdom’s annual gross domestic product.
The company is also targeting one million visitors per year by the time the project is complete.
Completion date: 2030
Construction work on the $8bn, 334 square kilometre giga-project, known as Qiddiya, started in January 2019, with the first phase scheduled to complete in 2022.
The new entertainment city is situated 45km from the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
In phase one alone in the so-called ‘Kingdom’s capital of entertainment’, there are more than 45 projects, where visitors will have access to over 300 recreational and educational facilities designed around five cornerstones of development that drive the strategy: Parks & Attractions, Sports & Wellness, Motion & Mobility, Nature & Environment and Arts & Culture.
These cornerstones will include a Formula One-standard racing track, a 20,000-seat cliff-top stadium, an 18,000-seat indoor arena, an aquatic centre and a sports hub, as well as a 2,000-seat performing arts theatre and a cinema.
The development will also be home to Six Flags Qiddiya, an extension of the American theme park, with six themed lands, which includes the world’s longest, tallest and fastest roller coaster and the world’s tallest drop-tower ride.
Qiddiya’s golf and residential neighbourhood will feature two 18-hole championship standard courses and offer club house facilities, in addition to residential components throughout.
By 2030, Qiddiya hopes to draw 17m visitors annually and build new sectors that will contribute up to 17bn riyals ($4.5bn) to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product, employing some 25,000 people.
Completion date: Ongoing
Construction work is due to start in January 2020 on a mixed-use traditional urban community which celebrates the rich cultural history of Saudi Arabia. Ad Diriyah will be home to luxury and lifestyle retail brands as well as over 100 cafes and restaurants.
The 7 sq km giga project will also be home to a diverse collection of museums and galleries in addition to a range of cultural and educational experiences. More than 20 world leading luxury hospitality brands, including Aman Resorts, will be located near a Formula-E racetrack and a 15,000-seat arena.
It will become a mixed-use traditional urban community, home to over 100,000 tourists, guests, residents and students at a time.
It is hoped Ad Diriyah will attract 25 to 30 million visitors annually, to enjoy word-class cultural, educational and recreational facilities, including museums and galleries that will offer visitors interactive and fun experiences.
Completion date: 2028
Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced plans in September 2018 for Amaala - a luxury tourism destination on its northwestern coast.
Described at the time as "a natural extension of the Mediterranean Sea”, and dubbed the “Riviera of the Middle East", the project covers 3,800 square kilometres across three sites featuring a total of 2,525 hotel keys and 1,496 residential villas, apartments and estate homes, plus over 200 high end retail establishments boasting an eclectic mix of galleries, ateliers, artisan workshops and bespoke retail shops, supported by a wide range of international and local signature dining venues.
The size of the investment has not been revealed only that the "initial funding for the project will be provided by PIF".
Construction work on Amaala started in Q1 of 2019, with the first phase due to open in Q4 2020. The project, aimed at "the world’s top 2.5 million leisure travellers", is expected to be completed in 2028.
Amaala will also generate an expected 22,000 jobs across hospitality and tourism, leisure and retail, in addition to the opportunities created in construction and ancillary industries.
Completion date: 2035
Plans to transform the ancient area of Al-Ula, which spans more than 22,000km², include a luxury eco-resort called Sharaan, as well as Sharaan Natural Reserve, were revealed in February 2019.
The resort, located in the mountains of Al-Ula, will include a summit centre, residential estates, restaurants and a spa, and will be sited in a valley inside the 925km² Sharaan Nature Reserve.
Al-Ula is known for its striking sandstone rock formations, and is the archaeological site of Madain Saleh, designated as Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage site in 2008, the largest Nabatean settlement south of Petra, boasting the ancient civilization’s carved rock tombs.
Designed by award-winning architect Jean Nouvel, who designed The Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the Shaaran project aims to attract two million visitors to the area by 2035, creating 38,000 jobs and generating SAR120bn ($32bn).
Completion date: Topping out scheduled for 2020
With more than 40 project stakeholders and an estimated height of 1km, what would become the tallest building in the world, the $1.4bn Jeddah Tower, being developed by Kingdom Holding Co’s unit, Jeddah Economic City, is a massive undertaking.
As of February, 2019, construction progress on Jeddah Tower had reached 71 percent, with topping out scheduled for 2020.
The 200-floor-plus building will feature more than 750 residential units, hotel keys, and serviced apartments, in addition to 3,190 parking spots and close to 60 elevators.
Boasting a gross floor area of 2.6 million square feet (243,866 square meters) over 252 stories, the tower will also feature the world's highest observation deck at 2,178 feet (664 metres) off the ground, with a 5,382 square feet (500 square metre) outdoor platform.
Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is expected to operate the hospitality units within Jeddah Tower, which has been designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. Primary designer Adrian Smith also designed the Burj Khalifa when he was working for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM).
Among Jeddah Tower’s contractors are Al Fouzan Trading and General Construction Co, which is delivering infrastructure work under a $165.3m (SAR620m) deal it won in January 2018; and Saudi Binladin Group, which is working as main contractor.
Completion date: Ongoing
Jabal Omar has a built-up area of more than 40 hectares and a budget of $4.3bn (SAR16bn).
The project is composed of 40 towers situated on top of 16 structural bases with a total built-up area of approximately two million square metres.
Jabal Omar is an eight-phase project. Stage 1 includes nine towers with hotels and residential apartments, and Stage 2 includes four hotel towers. Stages 3, 4, and 5 respectively include four towers, of which two will be a twin-tower hotel; a seven-tower hotel scheme; and five hotel towers. Phases 6, 7, and 8 include prayer areas, two residential towers, and two hotel towers, one of which will be a seven-star facility.
In January 2019, developer Jabal Omar Development Co (JODC) secured a five-year sukuk worth $135m (SAR506m) from Dubai-based financier Shuaa Capital for its Makkah megaproject.
Upon completion, the Jabal Omar project will include a variety of five and four star hotels with the capacity to host up to 36,000 guests annually and in excess of 100,000 visitor during Hajj season.
Completion date: 2025
The SAR60bn metro project was approved by the Saudi cabinet in March 2013.
It involves a total of three lines, with phase one linking the King Abdulaziz International Airport with the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium, central Al-Ruwais and Al-Khozam.
Al-Watan newspaper reported last year that the Jeddah Metro project would be delayed until the bus network is completed in five to seven years, citing Osama Ibrahim Abdu, CEO of Jeddah Metro Co.
“The Jeddah Metro project is already planned, and will cost SAR 60bn,” Abdu was quoted as saying. However, Jeddah has a challenging geographical nature; engineering details and groundwater problems should be settled first, he noted.
The project was originally scheduled for completion in 2020 but this has since been pushed back to 2025.
Value: Phase one is expected to cost $2.7bn
Completion date: 2025
Al Widyan is a seven million square metre mixed use city and leisure destination in Riyadh’s northern growth corridor, approximately 15 minutes away from the international airport and 20 minutes from downtown.
Split into 12 separate districts the ‘city within a city’ will boast entertainment, retail, health and education facilities, homes and offices, all within a walkable environment.
Al Widyan’s construction plan was unveiled in August 2018, and in September 2018 contractor Binyah was awarded a $292m (SAR1.1bn) infrastructure contract for the scheme.
The daily on-site population is estimated to be up to 100,000 people consisting of residents, workers, tourists, health and business visitors, and students.
Over 50 percent of the land area will be committed to public open space, plazas, parks, schools and community facilities and anchored by ‘Central Park’, Riyadh’s largest public park built around Al Widyan’s natural wadis.
A broad mix of low- and high-rise housing - over 20,000 units - will attract new families, young creatives and entrepreneurs, students and workers.
The project is estimated to generate more than 140,000 new jobs, including 155,000 construction jobs.
Completion date: Phase one to open in H2 2020
At a cost of $23bn Riyadh Metro is one of the largest urban transport projects in the world.
Owned by Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA), the metro, phase one of which is scheduled to open in the second half of 2020, is made up of six lines, stretching 176km, with 85 metro stations.
It is set to use driverless Metropolis-based trains, composed of two cars per set totalling 36 metres in length, carrying passengers in three classes including first, family and singles class. It is expected to carry 400,000 passengers daily.
Alstom is supplying lines 4, 5 and 6 the of the metro system with 69 Metropolis-based Riyadh Metro trains, signalling system, energy recovery station as well as tracks.
Riyadh Development Authority (RDA) announced last year that it raised over SR1bn ($278m) from its station naming rights auction for the Riyadh Metro network.
The authority awarded naming rights for eight stations to commercial organisations from Saudi Arabia and the region on ten-year contracts.
Completion date: First phase to complete in H1 2021
Al Akaria Saudi Real Estate Company and Triple Five Worldwide-owned Arabian Dream KSA are teaming up to develop what they say is the world’s largest mixed use entertainment and shopping centre development.
Triple Five is the owner and developer of three of the largest retail and entertainment centres in North America: Mall of America, American Dream and West Edmonton Mall.
The new destination is expected to cost $5 billion and will include major theme parks, water parks, recreational facilities, dining and hospitality components, all coupled with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.
The development will be located within Al Widyan’s seven million sq m masterplan, which is being built as a mixed-use development and leisure destination.
The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in the first half of next year.
Triple Five Worldwide owns Mall of America and American Dream in the US, and West Edmonton Mall in Canada, which at 5.3 million square feet (1.6 million square metres) is currently the largest shopping and entertainment complex in the world.
Completion date: Q4 2021
King Fahad Medical City (KFMC) spans 23.4ha in the heart of Riyadh and is considered the largest and most advanced medical complex in the Middle East.
The $14bn project involves expansion of a 1,395 bed medical campus with the addition of a 231 bed, state-of-the-art cancer and proton beam therapy centre in an area of 473,000 square foot; a 368,000 square foot, 316 bed neuroscience institute; a 48 bed 120,000 square foot cardiovascular centre; a six-storey 243,400 square foot laboratory and office building and a 60,000 square foot central energy plant.
The expansion project is scheduled for completion in Q4 2021.
Value: Part of $23bn project to create green areas in the capital
Completion date: 2025
The King Salman Park, which was launched in March 2019, will stretch over a 13.4 square-kilometre area on the site of the old airport, and will be linked by the bus and metro lines of the city.
The park, which will be five times the size of London’s Hyde Park and four times the size of New York’s Central Park, will include Islamic themed and vertical gardens, a labyrinth and a bird and butterfly conservatory.
It will also feature a 7.5 kilometre circular walkway, and a “wadi” area that will stretch over an 800,000 square metre area as well as water elements and art work.
The park also will have an arts section that will stretch over 400,000 square metres that includes a 2,500-seat national theatre and an 8,000-seat open air theatre. It will also boast cinemas, art academies, seven museums and space for parties spanning 40,000 square metres.
The park will have an 850,000 square-metre golf course, a 50,000 square-meter sports complex, a 100,000 square-metre entertainment games area and a 140,000 square-metre water sports section.
It will also include 12,000 residential units,16 hotels with 2,300 rooms, a food and retail area stretching over a 500,000 square metre area and libraries spanning a 600,000 square metre section.
Completion date: 2020
Chinese bottling giant Pan-Asia Pet Resin, which supplies its products to global beverage-makers Pepsi, Coca Cola, Master Kong, and Watson’s, is building a $1bn (SAR4bn) factory in Saudi Arabia.
Pan-Asia’s polyethylene terephthalate factory is being developed within Saudi Arabia’s Jazan City for Primary and Downstream Industries. When complete, it will be the first Chinese project within the Saudi industrial hub.
Development plans for the factory were formalised at the Future Investment Initiative conference held in Saudi Arabia last year. More than 570 jobs will be created as part of the project, which comes under Saudi-Sino agreements inked within the remit of Vision 2030 and the Belt and Road Initiative, SPA announced in January 2019.
The facility will produce 1.25 million tons of purified terephthalate acid each year, in addition to 500,000 tons of DDT Pet, with product launch expected in 2020.
Completion date: 2025
Once complete, the SAR62bn ($16.5bn) Makkah Public Transport Programme (MPTP) will serve to address the travel needs of millions of people who come to Makkah each year to undertake Hajj and Umrah, in addition to its 1.7 million local residents.
The integrated transport network will include a four-line metro announced in 2012, covering 180km and serving 88 stations, which will complement the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro.
The metro was due to be completed in six phases over about 20 years.
In addition, the project includes a network of bus transport that covers the city of Makkah in four different levels, including bus rapid transit (BRT), local bus, feeder bus service, and shuttle bus that connect the parks (Park and Ride) and Al-Masjid Al-Haram, train stations, and express buses.
Completion of the metro is expected to be in 2025.