‘World’s largest’ modern downtown development to add 9,000 keys to Riyadh

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image © ekrem osmanoglu / Unsplash
Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh is due to be transformed thanks to a megaproject which will encompass major hotel development.

The state-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF) has launched the New Murabba Development Company (NMDC) which aims to develop the world’s largest modern downtown in Riyadh.

Sustainable city

Contributing to the city’s future development in line with Saudi Vision 2030, the New Murabba project will be built around the concept of sustainability.

Over an area of 19 sq km at the intersection of King Salman and King Khalid roads to the North West of Riyadh, the project will cover more than 25 million sq m of floor area.

Grand plan

The plan calls for over 104,000 residential units, 9,000 hotel rooms, and more than 980,000 sq m of retail space, as well as 1.4 million sq m of office space, 620,000 sq m of leisure assets, and 1.8 million sqm of space dedicated to community facilities.

It will also feature an iconic museum, a technology and design university, a multipurpose immersive theatre, and more than 80 entertainment and culture venues.

Innovative landmark

NMDC will develop the project and build the ‘Mukaab’, a landmark featuring the latest innovative technologies. The design includes first-of-its-kind facilities and will be one of the largest built structures in the world, standing 400 m high, 400 m wide, and 400 m long. Its cubic shape is designed to ensure the most efficient utilisation of space to accommodate the technologies necessary to develop the icon.

Inspired by the modern Najdi architectural style, the Mukaab will be an immersive destination offering an experience created by digital and virtual technology with the latest holographics. The Mukaab will encompass a tower atop a spiral base, and a structure featuring 2 million sq m of floor space that will be a premium hospitality destination with many retail, cultural and tourist attractions, along with residential and hotel units, commercial spaces, and recreational facilities. The project is due to be completed in 2030.

Investment billions

The New Murabba project is a significant contributor to at least US$3.8 billion of hotel development investment heading to Riyadh, according to the latest figures from THP.

Database records show there are at least 46 high end hotel projects underway in the city, encompassing 18,358 keys.

Luxury lead

Of these premium projects, 28 are five stars while the remaining 18 are in the four star category, giving a 61%/39% luxury to upscale split.

Immediate deliveries are the order of the day, with 50% of these hotels (23 sites) due to complete by the end of this year. The pace looks to be uneven in the coming years though, with just two slated for 2024, but the rate rises again in 2025 to 11. At least another five are planned for 2026 and five more are either not yet designated a delivery date or are scheduled for further in the future.

Brand plans

In terms of the major hotel groups’ plans for the city, IHG Hotels & Resorts looks to be leading the way with at least nine developments on the slate. Hilton Worldwide is close behind with seven projects, while both Accor and Marriott International share third spot on six.

Drilling down into individual brands we find that Radisson Hotel Group’s Radisson Blu Hotels & Resorts tops this list with three upcoming hotels, while on two each are IHG’s InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts and Hotel Indigo, Accor’s Novotel, Hilton’s Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Rosewood Hotel Group’s Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.

Ones to watch

Other notable hotels heading to the Saudi capital include double IHG development Regent Riyadh KAFD and Kimpton Riyadh. Part of the new 32 million sq ft King Abdullah Financial District, the former site will add 216 keys with the latter comprising 225 keys, and both due for delivery in Q3 this year.

Plus two Marriott hotels slated for the same district are Element Riyadh and Westin Riyadh, with Element bringing 244 rooms online in Q3 2025 while Westin’s 388 units were originally slated for Q1 2025, though there are now questions as to whether this hotel project will move forward in its current form.