Visions of Our City: The urban transformation of Riyadh
Together we celebrate Riyadh’s vibrant development, from infrastructure projects that improve residents’ quality of life to regulatory reforms that attract global investors.
Riyadh is a city with big plans.
Among all the major cities in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT) region, and even among G20 nations, Riyadh – a city of nearly 6 million inhabitants – is undergoing the most ambitious transformation of our time.
Riyadh is a fast-growing city and we are seeing projects worth US$ 60 billion completed over the next few years.Riyadh is pursuing a new cycle of policies to support social reform and sustainable and balanced growth. Major infrastructure and real estate development projects are underway to ensure the housing supply and urban systems infrastructure keep pace with demographic and economic shifts while improving residents’ quality of life.
The Riyadh Royal Commission aims to expand green spaces to 9% of total urban surface, covering an area of 540 square kilometres (sq km) when completed. Major developments such as: the King Salman Park, Green Riyadh, Riyadh Art and Sport boulevard are being built for US$ 23 billion to improve the liveability and sustainable development of the city.
Underpinning these developments is a vast transit network that will connect the sprawling city.
The US$ 22.5 billion Riyadh Metro, stretching across 176 km and 85 stations will also reduce congestion and pollution, while boosting connectivity for the burgeoning city. Separately, the King AbdulAziz Bus Public Transport Network is being built at a cost of US$ 42.7 billion featuring 80 bus routes, traversing 1,180 miles and creating 20,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The Integrated Logistics Bonded Zone and the US$ 4 billion King Abdullah Financial District will also help attract international companies, encourage co-location and promote economic diversification, while solidify Riyadh’s growing prowess as a regional financial powerhouse.
BENEFITTING FROM VISION 2030
These projects are set to breathe new life into the city, upgrade its infrastructure and mirror the changing nature of the Saudi economy under the Vision 2030 programme.
Vision 2030 is a transformational initiative that aims to overhaul the kingdom’s economy, reduce dependence on oil and gas, create new sectors, and deepen existing ones such as mining, logistics, transportation, tourism, financial services, real estate and technology.
As the capital and the country’s main business hub, Riyadh is expected to be a major recipient of many Saudi Vision 2030 projects, which will further expand the city’s appeal.
Regulatory reforms are also under way to improve ease of doing business and increase transparency and privatisation efforts, boosting diversification while opening it to global investors.
The city is also nurturing a creative streak with the launch of Media City, which aims to develop and enhance growth opportunities for small and medium enterprises in the art and culture sectors.
SOCIAL SERVICES SURGE
Even before the pandemic, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) had been investing heavily in healthcare (remote and in-patient) and education sectors. KSA has already poured in more than US$ 0.47 trillion in healthcare, social development and education sectors over the past five years, and Riyadh – the country’s biggest population centre – will receive a sizable chunk of those investments.
Indeed, more healthcare infrastructure is under development. This includes the Security Forces Medical City, a US$ 4 billion project featuring 1,250 hospital beds and 2,750 self-sufficient housings units, which will be the largest medical complex in Middle East when completed.
KSA is also investing in building capacity in personal protective equipment, vaccines and locally produced medicines to develop the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industry.
On the education front, Riyadh is investing in tertiary education to grow a local pool of talent. With the aim to improve higher education provision locally, the national government has also allowed foreign universities to open international branch campuses in the country. This move is likely to increase Riyadh’s competitiveness in terms of education, especially in the region, where other cities are already home to top universities’ campuses.
The pandemic will change most populated cities and Riyadh will be no different. But the city’s focus on outdoor activities, and improving health and social well-being will give it an advantage over the more densely populated metropolises.
Riyadh is making bold steps towards increasing its global influence, from hosting major events such as the G20 to improving the city’s global appeal and quality of life through major urban renovation projects.