Saudi Arabia has made a concerted effort in recent years to transform itself into a premier tourist destination with a variety of planned entertainment infrastructure projects. In 2017 the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund launched the Entertainment Investment Company, through which it intended to develop more than $2.6 billion worth of projects in line with Vision 2030. These projects include the development of a series of resorts and luxury hotels along a 200-kilometer segment of the Red Sea coastline as well as plans for multiple entertainment destinations, cinemas, and theme parks.
Another notable project that will serve Saudi citizens and potentially attract tourists is the Mall of Saudi. Expected to open during the first quarter of 2024, the 296,000-square-meter facility will house some of the world’s most prominent retail brands and feature several unique attractions.
1. It’s Being Developed by Majid Al Futtaim
Majid Al Futtaim, a premier development company in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region with more than 1.4 million square meters of gross leasable area across 27 shopping malls, initiated the Mall of Saudi project. The company’s real estate portfolio includes more than a dozen hotels and four mixed-use communities. It employs 43,000 people and has revenues exceeding $8 billion.
Despite recording losses during the past two years due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, Majid Al Futtaim has continued to expand its portfolio. In addition to the Mall of Saudi, the company intends to open 30 VOX Cinemas in the Kingdom in 2021 and is also developing the Mall of Oman and City Centre Al Zahia in the United Arab Emirates.
“The fact that we have experienced growth in some of our businesses during a year of unprecedented disruption is a testament to the importance that should always be placed on people, the planet, and our collective progress,” noted Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani. “For me, this is stakeholder capitalism in action, and it makes me optimistic about our future.”
In May 2021, Majid Al Futtaim awarded a four-year design consultancy contract to AECOM for the Mall of Saudi Arabia. AECOM, which has led design consulting efforts on projects including Otkritie Arena-Spartak Stadium and the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, will perform pre- and post-contract construction supervision for the project, which is expected to break ground in late 2021.
The Mall of Saudi, part of a $4.2 billion master-planned development, is expected to generate roughly 70,000 jobs during construction in addition to 16,000 full-time jobs once it’s open.
2. It Will Offer Unique Stores and Attractions
Advertised as a one-stop shopping destination with an abundance of leisure attractions, the Mall of Saudi will have more than 600 stores covering luxury fashion, contemporary and value fashion, lifestyle retail, and services. It will also feature a 9,000-square-foot Carrefour Hypermarket, a 38-screen VOX Cinema, and a 9,500-square-meter Magic Planet. It will also be home to Little Explorers, a children’s play facility that promotes cognitive and physical skill development via immersive educational experiences.
The Mall of Saudi will also feature one of the largest indoor ski slopes in the world. The 40,000-square-meter area will be open year-round and feature a functional ski slope in addition to areas for snowboarding and other snow-based activities. It will also feature trees and projected images of mountains to simulate an authentic mountain skiing experience.
There will also be an abundance of restaurants in the Mall of Saudi. At Paradise Water Garden, guests can dine in a semi-formal setting against a backdrop of water features and greenery. The restaurant will also have a retractable roof to allow for open-air dining during cooler months. Meanwhile, The Food Loft is a unique restaurant where guests can watch their meals be cooked. There will also be several cafés.
3. It Will Be Adjacent to a Luxury Hotel
A 275-room hotel will be constructed near the Mall of Saudi as part of the master-planned development. The five-star luxury hotel will be accessible from the mall and snow park and feature premium ski chalets, green spaces and water features, a signature spa, and more than 280 VIP parking spaces. There will also be a partially-gated community with garden terrace apartments and urban-style terraced apartments.
4. The Mall Will Be Designed with an Emphasis on Sustainability
Majid Al Futtaim’s prior projects have been recognized for achieving high stands in water, energy, and waste measurement and reduction. Moreover, it is seeking to be net positive in water and carbon by 2040. Majid Al Futtaim is certified by the US Green Building Council and reuses 100 percent of treated wastewater for its projects.
AECOM is an ideal partner in this regard as it also places importance on environmental stewardship. The firm operates under a Sustainable Legacies strategy, which includes the following four themes: embedding sustainable development and resilience across its work, improving social outcomes, achieving net-zero carbon emissions, and enhancing governance.