Work begins on Qiddiya megaproject; first phase opening in 2023
by Parag Deulgaonkar
Saudi Arabia’s megaproject Qiddiya will be developed in three phases, with the first phase opening expected in 2023, Karim Shamma, Chief Development Officer, Qiddiya Investment Company, told Argaam in an exclusive interview.
“Work has already commenced on site with land surveys and infrastructural planning,” he said.
The first phase includes more than 45 distinct offerings and over 300 activities across the creative, cultural, hospitality, entertainment and sporting sectors.
Qiddiya has collaborated with master planner Bjarke Ingles Group on the design.
Work on the second phase will commence in 2023, while the final phase will be launched in 2026, Shamma said, adding that international firm Bjarke Ingles Group has designed the entertainment megaproject.
Here’s are some excerpts from Argaam’s interview with the company’s development officer:
Q: How many phases will be there in the master development?
A: Qiddiya will be developed and launched in three distinct phases. The first phase focuses on introducing Qiddiya and a set of initial thrilling attractions to the public.
Set to commence in 2023, the second phase will prioritize expanding the site’s main attractions along with all five cornerstones. The third and final phase is expected to begin in 2026 and will include further expansion, increasing the range of entertainment offerings and record-breaking attractions.
Q: Which components will make the first phase?
A: In the first phase of project development, we are focusing on delivering the key anchor attractions that will define Qiddiya’s identity and establish the destination as the "home of inspiration, discovery and engagement". It will offer the key assets from across all five of our cornerstones of development: parks and attractions, motion and mobility, sports and wellness, arts and culture, and nature and environment. It will also build the infrastructure and landscaping necessary to support and enhance the development of Qiddiya.
Q: How did you arrive on these components for the first phase?
A: Phase one includes this targeted package of assets in recognition that they represent a wide range of attractions across Qiddiya’s cornerstones. Key offerings such as theme parks, water parks, arts and sports venues, and residential options to name a few, will serve as a major draw for local and regional visitors who otherwise were spending significantly on leisure offerings outside of the Kingdom. Anchoring the opening of Qiddiya in assets that are sure to delight families and visitors while addressing diverse interests is a strategy that will continue after opening day, and into subsequent phases.
Q: When will work start on phase one and completion date?
A: Work has already commenced on site with land surveys and infrastructural planning. The first phase is expected to conclude at the beginning of 2023.
Q: What kind of planning is being undertaken to develop the master plan?
A: Qiddiya has collaborated with master planner Bjarke Ingles Group on the design. The first phase includes more than 45 distinct and varied offerings and over 300 activities across the creative, cultural, hospitality, entertainment and sporting sectors. The masterplan has been designed to highlight the site’s spectacular topography, views and history, all of which make Qiddiya a destination like no other.
Q: How important is it for you to develop a green infrastructure for this project?
A: Qiddiya will be carefully crafted to respect and enhance the site’s nature and natural patterns. We are working with top in-house talent to design sustainability practices in line with global standards. Developing green infrastructure to ensure responsible environmental stewardship is a priority for Qiddiya, and visitors will take note of a green buffer making up a significant portion of the site’s area, to ensure environmentally-friendly site construction. Addressing potential challenges such as water sources in desert conditions is an ongoing process in which QIC continues to draw upon the expertise of international leaders to promote best practices.
Q: How do you plan to connect the project with major cities of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world?
A: Qiddiya is strategically located to target the needs of the population of Riyadh, a city with nearly nine million citizens hungry for entertainment and recreation options that traditionally were based outside of the country. Located only 45 minutes away from King Khalid International Airport, Qiddiya will be connected to the rest of Saudi Arabia and the world. Domestic visitors will form the core audience of Qiddiya, as Saudis lead the G20 in international tourism spending as a percentage of GDP due to a lack of entertainment options at home. It is expected that Saudi citizens and visitors from around the region will benefit most in the immediate term from the opening of attractions that specifically address local tastes and needs.