RIYADH: Work on Saudi Arabia’s epic Qiddiya entertainment megaproject has been forging ahead despite a global economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
While many countries have been forced to stall or scale down similar construction schemes due to the pandemic, it has been business as usual in the Kingdom for the building of the ambitious visitor destination.
To ensure the tourism project has been able to remain on track, Qiddiya Investment Co. (QIC) — which is driving the development — obtained the necessary permits to carry on with construction on the site while closely monitoring health and safety measures outlined by the authorities.
Qiddiya, an initiative born from the Vision 2030 reform plan and supported by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is located southwest of Riyadh, and is set to become the Kingdom’s capital of entertainment, sports, and the arts.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, Arab News spoke to QIC officials about the project’s latest developments and the company’s plans to continue with construction.
Preliminary construction — to prepare the site for the subsequent phases of development — commenced at the end of 2019 and is due to be completed next year.
QIC Chief Executive Officer Michael Reininger said: “After taking the necessary precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and contractors, we obtained the necessary work permits to continue work on the site.
“Qiddiya is set to become the Kingdom’s capital of entertainment, sports and the arts, and the only way to achieve this is to remain on track with the development of the project and carry on working, come what may.”
A key tenet of Vision 2030 is to enable local businesses to contribute and play an important role in the Kingdom’s transformation, and in this context, QIC has awarded three key construction contracts to Saudi companies.
Shibh Al-Jazira Contracting Co. (SAJCO) secured a deal to begin construction of the first phase of the roads network to provide easy access to the site and enable future building work.
The first contract for 2020 was awarded to Abdul Ali Al-Ajmi Co. to start work on preparing site foundations for Qiddiya’s first major zones, the Resort Core, and the City Center.
A second 2020 contract has gone to Saudi Pan Kingdom Co. (SAPAC) to build security fencing around the entire premises as the first step toward allowing the commencement of multiple construction projects scheduled to begin this year.
Kareem Shamma, Qiddiya’s chief development officer, said: “In compliance with the Kingdom’s regulations, we are proud to bring you this major construction update showing how Qiddiya is moving forward with some of its key infrastructure projects.
“We are also grateful to our partners for their commitment and support in delivering only the best during these challenging circumstances. Collectively, we continue to take all the necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the community.”
In addition to the ongoing progress, QIC is committed to the preservation of the site’s natural resources and ecosystem.
By focusing on biodiversity and creating improved microclimates, it aims to encourage comfortable pedestrian movement in attractive surroundings, while promoting well-being, cutting carbon fuel consumption, reducing, reusing and recycling waste, and managing valuable water resources in the most efficient way possible.
In coordination with the Saudi Electricity Co. and National Grid SA, Qiddiya has also carried out a major transfer of high- and medium-voltage overhead power lines between existing and new towers on site.
Salman Al-Hubeis, the executive director of project development, said: “We are proud to be on schedule with some of our key infrastructure projects at Qiddiya.
“We are thankful to our development partners for their support during this difficult time as we continue site preparation and security projects as well as power lines relocation projects.”