x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Riyadh in line for a Dh12bn facelift

The Saudi developer Arriyadh Development Company has plans to transform the centre of the capital.

A Saudi developer has unveiled a 13 billion riyals (Dh12.73bn) urban regeneration plan that could transform the centre of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia's Arriyadh Development Company is leading a consortium of eight companies to develop the project, which will be spread across 750,000 square metres and include a mix of housing, commercial and tourism components.

Khalid al Dughaither, the chief executive of Arriyadh Development Company, said the project, due to take 15 years to build, was in the final stage of planning and feasibility studies. He added that once the masterplan was approved by the Saudi Arabian government and the land had been acquired, a new company, made up of the consortium partners, would be formed to develop the project. About 90 per cent of the buildings that currently exist at the project's planned location will be demolished, said Mr al Dughaither, who compared the development to London's Canary Wharf and Downtown Beirut.

The bulk of the funds for the project will come from the government and investments from the partners, including Lebanon's Solidere, which built Downtown Beirut, Saudi's Arabia's Dar Al-Arkan, Saudi Real Estate Company, the kindom's Social Insurance Establishment and its Public Pension Fund. "For any renovation development there should be government support, especially for the infrastructure, to make the project feasible," said Mr al Dughaither.

Other investors will be invited to become involved in the development, which will be built across nine phases, once the masterplan has been approved. He said he expected to get the government's go-ahead for the project by the end of this year. The development would help the kingdom ease its housing shortage, which stands at 2 million homes, according to figures from the property consultancy CB Richard Ellis.

Another 1.4 million homes may be needed over the next 10 years as the country's population grows to an expected 33 million by 2020, the consultancy said. Today, a large proportion of the population is under the age of 30. The Saudi Arabian government is also investing heavily in the country's infrastructure. Meanwhile, UAE contractors are gearing up for projects in the kingdom. Arabtec Construction, which set up a unit there in March last year, has so far moved 6,000 staff to the country and plans to increase this to 10,000 by the end of this year as it wins new projects.

Al Habtoor Leighton won its first contract in Saudi Arabia last year through a partnership with the Riyadh contractor Al Rajhi Group and is eyeing further partnerships in the country. agiuffrida@thenational.ae