Real estate development in Makkah and Madinah has been on the upsurge over the past year, particularly following the opening of the sector to foreign investment and the renewed focus on religious tourism in the wake of the decline in the number of coronavirus cases globally.
Two key projects in Makkah – Masar Destination and Jabal Omar Development – and a new mega project in Madinah – Central Madinah Development – have been hitting headlines even as these two holy cities have been opening up to larger numbers of pilgrims since the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions.
The developer of the $27-billion Masar Destination, the Saudi-based Umm Al Qura Development and Construction Company last month signed a partnership deal with Fakeeh Care Group to build a state-of-the-art hospital within the massive development at a total investment of SR1 billion ($266 million). This was the latest in a series of partnerships signed by the company which in April struck a deal with Kaden Investment Company for the development of a cultural, shopping and entertainment destination known as Masar Front which aims to replicate the success of the investment company’s earlier project, Riyadh Front.
King Abdul Aziz Road is the core component of the Masar development, which will also include two malls, international hotels and serviced apartments.
The other mall – which will be the largest of its kind in Makkah – will be developed in partnership with Hamat Holding at an investment of SR2.7 billion. Work on the planned Masar Mall is expected to be completed in 2026 (see Page 9).
Meanwhile, with its first phase already operational, the massive Jabal Omar Development, a mixed-use real estate project within walking distance of the Grand Mosque, continues to see significant progress on three other phases.
When fully completed, the mega development, with a built-up area of 2.5 million sq m, will comprise a total of 38 towers which will be home to 16 international four and five-star hotels with a capacity to host up to 36,000 guests a day.
Work is currently at an advanced stage on the second, third, and fourth phases of the Jabal Omar development, which was launched in 2017. They are 85.13, 90 and and 63 per cent complete, respectively.
The developer of the project Jabal Omar Development Company (JODC), one of the largest real estate developers in Saudi Arabia, recently sold a plot within its project for SR517 million to enable it to complete the construction of Phase Four of its masterplan (see Page 14).
Among other developments, work has been completed on the second phase of slums demolition works in Makkah’s Al-Nakasa district. The entire Al-Nakasa neighbourhood, which spreads over a total area of 681,056 sq m, is being razed to make way for the urban development plan drawn up by the Royal Commission for the Makkah City and the Holy Sites.
Meanwhile, the National Housing Company (NHC), a government holding company that is wholly owned by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Housing as its investment arm, has launched the new Makanah Residential Project in Makkah.
Being developed over an area of 20,000 sq m as part of the Sakani programme – a real estate initiative under the NHC designed to support and enable Saudi citizens to own homes, the project features 108 residential units spread across six buildings.
In terms of infrastructure to support the massive population the city hosts during the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, roads and utility services are also being built and expanded. For instance, Rabigh 3 desalination plant is now in the commissioning stage. The 600,000-cu-m-per-day plant will guarantee the supply of drinking water to more than three million people in the cities of Makkah, Jeddah and Mastorah.
Set to become the largest reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, the Rabigh 3 facility is also a model of innovation and sustainability in its design and construction, which allows it to reduce the energy consumption and increase plant availability.
Rua Al Madinah Holding Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), is moving ahead on its Madinah Central Area (MCA) development, a 1.4-sq-km project that will ultimately deliver greatly expanded retail and hospitality assets in the Madinah.
Following the appointment of Hill International, a global leader in managing construction risk, to provide project management support for the advance roadways package of the development in June last year, it is reported to awarded a contract for the construction of a 5-km-long road tunnels in Madinah.
The advance infrastructure package will enable the Al Amida Road to serve as an alternative to the current Ring Road by expanding the roadway to six lanes and upgrading the Ali Bin Abi Taleb traffic tunnel and connecting Al Amida to the King Faisal Ring Road.
Work is also in progress on new projects at the Knowledge Economic City (KEC) such as the SR1.3-billion Knowledge City Forum located within 6 km of the Prophet’s Mosque, and City Gate, positioned adjacent to the Haramain Express train station.
The Knowledge City Forum will be established over an area of 68,000 sq m. The mixed-use project will include a five-star hotel, in addition to several tourist and entertainment facilities, shopping malls, restaurants and coffee shops.
The City Gate project in the southern region will comprise a hotel, a main commercial market and a bus station that includes commercial spaces adjacent to the train station.