Massive ‘city within a city’ backed by Saudi Arabia’s PIF planned for Riyadh

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The project will be located in the northern growth corridor of Riyadh, 15 minutes away from the international airport. The designs include a 600,000 square meters park with some 200,000 trees. (Shutterstock)
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The project will be located in the northern growth corridor of Riyadh, 15 minutes away from the international airport. (Reuters)
Updated 07 August 2018
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Massive ‘city within a city’ backed by Saudi Arabia’s PIF planned for Riyadh

  • Al Widyan will cover 7 million square meters
  • Located in key growth corridor in north of capital

LONDON: A new “city within a city” is being planned in Riyadh, backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign investor, the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The development — called Al Widyan — will comprise residential, commercial, retail and leisure facilities on a 7 million square meter site to the north of the capital, and will take seven years to complete. Initial work has already begun.

Al Akaria Saudi Real Estate Company (SRECO), a Tadawul-listed developer 65 per cent owned by PIF, announced the development, with a price tag of SR10 billion ($2.66 billion) for the first phase.

The project will be the first in the Kingdom outside an economic development zone to be granted the status of “self regulatory office,” an initiative aimed at simplifying and speeding planning approvals and reducing building bureaucracy.

Abdulrahman Almofadhi, chairman of SRECO, said: “Al Widyan will be a new paradigm for community living in the Kingdom and will embody the spirit of the new Saudi Arabia, the power of human talent to conceptualise and develop the future that we aspire to for our children, communities and nation.”

Al Widyan — which means “valleys” in Arabic - will be a self-sustaining community, Almofadhi told Arab News, with a strong emphasis on health care, wellness, education and lifestyle.

“It will be a city on its own, with an eye on the lifestyle of its inhabitants. We have designed into it huge swathes of land as open areas, including 200,000 trees and a 600,000 square meter ‘central park,” he said.

“It will be the first of its kind, designed by American and British partners, according to international standards, and also designed to be a catalyst for future development. It is also manifesting a lot of the principles of the Vision 2030 strategy, and we are playing our part in diligently working towards that. It is important the quality of life of citizens is improved,” he added.

The initial phase of the project will be part funded by a SR1.5 billion loan from PIF, and Almofadhi said the final cost will be decided by the market. But he held out the prospect that Al Widyan, currently a subsidiary of SRECO, might eventually be floated on the Saudi Stock exchange.

“We are now working towards establishing a fund through which investors can join with us. Al Widyan is going to be a big company down the road and we are open to welcoming public and private investors,” he said.

There are no plans for PIF to sell down some of its stake in SRECO, he insisted. “We do not expect that to happen. One of the main goals of PIF is to use real estate as an agent of change in Saudi Arabia. There is a need for better housing in the Kingdom and PIF is paying great attention to that,” he said.

He thanked the Riyadh municipal government for granting Al Widyan special status.

“I am excited by the prospect of becoming the first private self-regulated development. It is the only private project in the Kingdom to have this, and I believe it will allow us to de-risk the development and reduce its complexity. It will enable us to put it on the fast track,” he said.

A statement from SRECO said the site is in the northern growth corridor of Riyadh, 15 minutes away from the international airport and 20 minutes away from downtown. Its prime location puts it within reach of a population of over 8 million people.

Further details of the project, including impressions of exactly how it will look, will be revealed in October. 


Search engine Baidu becomes first China firm to join US AI ethics group

Updated 17 October 2018
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Search engine Baidu becomes first China firm to join US AI ethics group

  • The Partnership on AI (PAI), which counts Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as members, is a body that develops ethical guidelines for AI research
  • Baidu’s inclusion in the group comes as Chinese and US companies are looking to ramp up cooperation on AI

BEIJING: Chinese search engine Baidu has become the first Chinese company to join an artificial intelligence (AI) ethics group led by top US tech firms, amid wider political clashes over AI competition between China and the US.
The Partnership on AI (PAI), which counts Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as members, is a body that develops ethical guidelines for AI research, including ensuring research does not violate international conventions or human rights.
Last year China’s industry ministry named Baidu as one of four national AI champions, and the search firm has invested heavily in autonomous driving and deep learning in recent years.
“Baidu’s admission represents the beginning of PAI’s entrance into China. We will continue to add new members in China and around the world as we grow,” said PAI in a statement on Tuesday.

 

Baidu’s inclusion in the group comes as Chinese and US companies are looking to ramp up cooperation on AI, despite a looming political scuffle between the US and China over technology transfers.
Last year China set out a roadmap to become a world leader in AI by 2025, with plans to invest roughly $400 billion in the industry in the coming years.
The ambitions have rankled the US government, which has discussed plans to bolster security reviews of cutting-edge technology, including AI, over fears that China could access technology of strategic military importance.
China’s AI roadmap encourages technology sharing between private, public and military research groups.
Despite the clash, US companies have expanded their AI presence in China while Baidu and other Chinese firms have launched AI research labs in the US.
Last month China’s cyber ministry hosted Google, Amazon Inc. and Microsoft Corp. at its annual AI forum. All three companies have launched AI research labs in China over the past year, despite tightening censorship and data restrictions that limit the companies’ involvement in the market.
At the forum, top government officials stressed that China’s development of AI technology would be ethically conducted, adding that they have plans to retrain workers who lose their jobs to AI.

Decoder

China’s AI roadmap encourages technology sharing between private, public and military research groups.