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Doubts still swirl around completion of Jeddah Tower

City, Urban, Construction, Jeddah Tower Creative Commons/Ammar Shaker
Little progress has been made on the tower since 2016 and construction was stopped the following year
  • Reports that construction will resume
  • Officials refuse to confirm project will go ahead
  • Tower lacks a giga-project to call home

No final decision has been taken on construction the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, despite reports that building work on the controversial project had restarted.

The planned skyscraper, which was set to be the tallest building in the world, was announced in 2009 by Kingdom Holding.

Work stopped in 2017, however, after only a few dozen floors had been built when Kingdom Holding’s chairman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and his chosen contractor, Saudi Binladin Group, both fell out of favour during an anti-corruption campaign.  

“It will happen but I’m not going to say it’s 100 percent,” an investment ministry official in Riyadh said, when asked about recent reports that the project is back on. 

The main problem is that the tower remains without a home within the country’s map of mega developments. “A project of this size needs to be part of a giga-project,” he said. 

Saudi Arabia is developing giga-projects worth an estimated $1.25 trillion, including Neom, the Red Sea Project and Amaala tourist resorts, as part of its Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil by the end of the decade.

A Vision 2040 is due to be announced in 2027.  

The kingdom declined to comment on whether it was going ahead with the tower, which still officially belongs to the Jeddah Economic Company (JEC) it formed to lead the development.

JEC has not updated its website touting the tower since 2015. In 2018 it said the tower was going ahead as part of what it called Jeddah City. 

The project, located in the Obhur district in north Jeddah, has been eclipsed by Jeddah Central, announced in 2021 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and to be developed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). But Obhur is located far from Jeddah Central.

A spokesperson at construction tracking platform Scavo, a partnership between the Saudi Contractors Authority and Ventures Onsite, said it was still waiting for clarification from PIF. 

“We are not sure if it is going to be built or if they are just talking to contractors to get a price indication at this stage to decide on the most viable execution model to proceed,” the spokesperson said.

“With the pace of things happening in the kingdom, there is a high possibility that the project will proceed,” they added.

Contractors dismiss connection

Swedish construction firm Skanska, which has been mentioned as one of the contractors approached about completing the tower, declined to confirm whether it had received any communication.

A spokesman appeared to dismiss the idea of taking on the project. 

“We don’t have any operations or organisation in that part of the world. Europe and the US are our home markets where we are active,” he said. 

The tower’s architect, Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill – which said last year it did not know if the project would ever be completed – did not respond to requests for comment. 

The resumption of work on the tower would mark a return to the era of grand competition to create ever-taller buildings, especially in the Gulf. 

Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the world’s tallest building at 829.8 metres. Jeddah Tower was designed to be over 1,000 metres. Dubai developer Emaar is now building Dubai Creek Tower, whose intended final height has not been disclosed. 

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