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Diriyah Square planned for historic Riyadh district

An artist's impression of part of the Diriyah Square development Diriyah
An artist's impression of part of the Diriyah Square development
  • Launch at World Retail Congress
  • 2030 completion date
  • 400 shops and 100 F&B venues

A public space featuring 400 retail outlets and 100 restaurants and cafes is planned for the historic Riyadh district of Diriyah.

Diriyah Square will be announced next week at the World Retail Congress in Paris and aims to attract a combination of international retail brands and local artisans. 

Diriyah Gate Development Authority group CEO Jerry Inzerillo said the square will have a pedestrian-centric design and have direct access to the Wadi Hanifah – a 120km valley that runs through the Saudi capital – and the At-Turaif Unesco World Heritage Site.

Diriyah is one of the centrepieces of Saudi Arabia’s massive development plan, with a deadline of 2030 to complete the residential district – including the opera house, museum and arena – when Riyadh is host to the World Expo.

According to real estate consultancy Knight Frank, Diriyah is a $63 billion mixed-use project that will include 11,000 residential units, 3000 hotel rooms and 150,000 square metres of retail space when completed in 2030.

Last month Saudi Arabia hired a London-based architecture practice to design an entertainment venue for the district. The Arena will be a 20,000-seat multipurpose sports and cultural venue covering 76,000 sq m.

In December the kingdom’s officials announced it aimed to transform Diriyah’s heritage district into the “Beverly Hills of Riyadh” by 2028 in time for the World Expo 2030. 

Plans include the construction of a 1.9km road similar to the Champs Élysées in Paris – to be called King Salman Boulevard – that will have an Arc de Triomphe-style monument at both ends, connecting the At-Turaif historical district to King Saud University.

Retail is a vital part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plans to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons.

At a summit in Riyadh in February Majed Al-Hogail, the minister of municipal and rural affairs and housing, said the retail sector contributes 23 percent to the non-oil economy, and is aiming to exceed SAR460 billion ($122 billion) by the end of this year. 

Consultancies Kearney Middle East and Bain & Company reported in February that the Saudi retail sector was forecast to grow by 5 percent per annum over the next five years.

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