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Work commences on world’s largest cultural and heritage development Diriyah Gate, KSA

As reported by the Saudi Press Agency, development work has commenced on the first phase of Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s (DGDA’s) SAR 75bn (USD $20bn) development pipeline, marking the beginning of a bold new era of construction and transformation for Diriyah, a city within Riyadh province, Saudi Arabia.

The historic city, just 15 minutes north-west of Riyadh city centre, will be transformed into one of the world’s foremost lifestyle destinations for culture and heritage, hospitality, retail, and education. The destination will attract local and international visitors alike through its historically sensitive reimagining of the area and world-class entertainment and events. In line with design, development, and preservation standards, DGDA will create an environment that enhances Diriyah’s national and international relevance, including the preservation of the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site, which sits at the heart of the development.

Careful restoration of historic Diriyah has been undertaken to create a living heritage site that echoes the remarkable past of the first capital of Saudi Arabia. As part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, seven square kilometers of Diriyah will be transformed into one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourism destinations. Drawing on the region’s rich past, the Najdi-inspired Diriyah Gate reflects the Najdi architecture of 300 years past, newly adapted for 21st-century living.

The Diriyah Gate GIGA project on completion will feature an array of world-class cultural, entertainment, retail, hospitality, educational, office, and residential areas, including more than 20 hotels, a diverse collection of museums, a bustling retail heart and over 100 places to dine. The project includes a series of outdoor plazas and a 3km escarpment walk offering views across the historic Wadi Hanifah. Diriyah Gate will comprise the Kingdom’s most walkable collection of heritage and culture offerings, including more than 20 Saudi cultural attractions. The premier cultural and lifestyle destination will be home to a population of 100,000 and is set to attract 25 million visitors annually – a place to gather, explore, shop, dine, live, and work.

One of the first areas to benefit from the transformation is the existing Bujairi district. Over the coming year, Bujairi will be the first of several areas of Diriyah to experience a significant upgrade that will significantly beautify the area, improve infrastructure, and enhance the quality of life for the community. The new streetscape will honor the history of Diriyah with beautiful, fully indigenous landscaping, bike tracks, horse bridle paths, and natural shading for pedestrian walkways. Bujairi will soon be home to Riyadh’s new premium dining hub, enjoying uninterrupted views of At-Turaif; Diriyah Art Oasis – one of Saudi Arabia’s first art centers dedicated to contemporary art; and a 142-key Samhan Heritage Hotel.

A vital aspect of the development is the first stage of the renewal and restoration of two square kilometers of the historic Wadi Hanifah, forming part of the Diriyah Gate masterplan. These enhancements include the repair of the landmark palm groves and farms, combined with new walking trails and picnic areas for the community to gather and enjoy.

In addition to Bujairi and Wadi Hanifah, the initial activity on the ground also includes the commencement of one of the world’s most complex below-ground infrastructure projects. This requires an immense movement of approximately nine million cubic meters of soil, equivalent to 3,600 50-meter Olympic swimming pools; the development will comprise one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated sub-surface infrastructures globally.

Excavating 15 meters below ground level, the project will result in three kilometers of tunnels and 10,500 car parking spaces, using 1.2 million cubic meters of concrete. The first stages in the pipeline of development work will cover 1,320,000 square meters, approximately the size of 185 soccer pitches.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO, DGDA said: “There is only one Diriyah. Our project breaking ground is a key milestone and step towards Vision 2030. We are overjoyed to take the first steps in our construction phase, moving from vision to reality. Diriyah Gate will become a global cultural and lifestyle hub; a place of great celebration and joy, and a powerhouse of Saudi culture and commerce.

“Our Masterplan’s point of difference is an incredibly powerful combination of being home to the Jewel of the Kingdom At-Turaif, coupled with being steeped in over 300 years of Royal history, in addition to developing world class, contemporary assets – all reflecting the great future vision of our beloved leaders.

“With a huge variety of educational institutions planned, including academies, cultural institutes, museums, and universities, we will be developing a place of great learning and intellectual curiosity. Filled with wonder and discovery, Diriyah Gate will leave our visitors relaxed, inspired, and culturally connected, and it is destined to become one of the world’s greatest gathering places.”

Jonathan Timms, Chief Design and Development Officer, DGDA, added: “On completion, the development will embody a new way of living for Diriyah’s residents and the greater Riyadh community – comprising a sophisticated intersection of authentic Najdi-style living coupled with world class amenities, all within the convenience of a mixed-use urban community. Overall, it will be an enhanced, pedestrian friendly, walkable city, deeply rooted in the heritage and cultural equity of the Kingdom.”