Riyadh Downtown Development Program

Riyadh Downtown Development Program is a manifestation of comprehensive development concept adopted by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City since its establishment. The program aims to transform Riyadh downtown into a national historical, administrative and cultural center.

Aerial view of Qasr Al-Hukm District Downtown Riyadh

Aerial view of Qasr Al-Hukm District Downtown Riyadh

The rapid urban development of Riyadh over the past decades encouraged the residents to move from downtown to other parts of the city, which caused decline in urban uses there. This attitude encouraged expatriates to settle in Riyadh downtown and replace the residential uses with uses that support commercial activities like warehouses due to low rents that accompanied deterioration of the area’s urban situation. Accordingly, the role and main functions of the city’s downtown were negatively influenced.

Despite these conditions, the area still has strengths and opportunities that can ensure success of development efforts that meet the future view of the city.

Development Plan

Artistic vision of Riyadh city center after the completion of its development program

Artistic vision of Riyadh city center after the completion of its development program

The Royal Commission for Riyadh City approved an integrated plan to transform Riyadh downtown into a national historical, administrative and cultural center.

The plan objectives include conservation of urban and cultural heritage, preservation of the existing commercial activities, creation of more employment opportunities, diversification of housing patterns, achievement of social and demographic balance, and consolidation of urban security, in addition to improvement of the area’s road network and public utilities.

المخطط التوجيهي لتطوير وسط مدينة الرياض

المخطط التوجيهي لتطوير وسط مدينة الرياض

According to the plan, Riyadh downtown is bordered by Al-Washm Street and Omar bin Al-Khattab Street in the north, Al-Kharj Road in the east, Ammar bin Yasir Street and Al-A’sha Street in the south, and Imam Abdulaziz bin Muhammad Street in the west with a total area of 15 km².

Residential Districts

The development of urban and housing patterns in a group of downtown districts represents one of the most prominent traits of this plan in different residential units with variant densities to increase the number of Saudi residents, consolidate the urban security, and improve life quality in the area. The Royal Commission for Riyadh City and Ministry of Housing are coordinating to implement residential projects in the area to support the ministry’s efforts in development and housing projects downtown Riyadh.

Transport System

proposed ring road and internal streets downtown Riyadh

proposed ring road and internal streets downtown Riyadh

An integrated plan for transport development has been put in place, and it includes rehabilitation of the roads surrounding the area to form a ring road, in addition to building new internal roads. The plan also includes construction of tracks for a planned public transport system (metro/bus routes and stations), while the local intersections, pedestrian walkways and car parks are going to be renovated. The area will host three main metro lines; Al-Olaya-Al-Batha line, Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah line and King Abdulaziz Line.

Open Areas and Public Parks

Open areas downtown Riyadh

Open areas downtown Riyadh

The plan added more space to the local open areas and parks by providing additional public arenas and open spaces linked to the public transport stations via safe pedestrian walkways. More open spaces would be added to the area that extends from south of King Abdulaziz Historical Centre to Qasr Al-Hukm District along the cultural and heritage route that would be a main component of the execution plan.

The plan also included expansion of Salam Park eastward, establishment of public gardens and parks to serve the area and the city in general, and afforestation along the main roads and streets.

Culture and Heritage

View of Al-Daho neighbourhood after development

View of Al-Daho neighbourhood after development

The cultural and heritage development plan included special regulations for the area inside the walls of Old Riyadh, and focused on restoration of the memory of Old Riyadh through preservation of the local ancient buildings as part of Al-Zuhairah and Al-Dahow development project. A new tourist cultural and heritage route would be established from King Abdulaziz Historical Centre in the north to the Heritage Village, to be constructed at Al-Shimisi District in the south. The route will pass across all heritage, cultural and entertainment landmarks at Al-Zuhairah, Al-Dahow, Qasr Al-Hukm District, and Salam Park.

Government Uses

The plan highlighted the area’s role as an administrative metropolitan center through increasing the government uses at the area that falls south of Qasr Al-Hukm District to include headquarters for the government bodies like the administrative authorities rand courts. Additionally, media institutions would be established near Ministry of Culture and Media Complex including headquarter for the Television and Radio Authority. According to the plan, educational and cultural institutions would be built to the north and south of King Abdulaziz Historical Centre, which would create more employment opportunities in the area, and consequently attract more citizens to work and settle there.

Commercial Activities

Promotion of businesses and commercial activities

Promotion of businesses and commercial activities

The plan also promoted the area’s commercial activities by supporting and making best use of the local multi-purpose areas overlooking the main streets and near the planned metro stations were supported to ensure optimal benefit from the public transport system. Additionally, a new main axis for businesses and tourist services would be established to host different commercial and entertainment activities between Al-Batha Road and King Faisal Street. moreover, a new center for tourist services and hotels are going to be established in Riyadh downtown.

According to the plan, the commercial activities in Al-Batha area would be preserved while public area and passageways would be renovated. Only the survivable and competitive activities would be kept, while the rest activities would be relocated. Nevertheless, the locations of the commercial activities that serve the whole city such as those overlooking Al-Suilam Street and Al-Atayef Street would remain intact.

Execution program

The plan included an execution program that stressed the necessity of a direct government role through a state-owned development company to supervise development works, define priorities, put detailed plans and form a high committee to supervise and follow up on the plan progress.

In addition, new measures and procedures would be taken to facilitate the development and address the expected problems such as providing alternative areas for warehouses and labor housing, as well as developing solutions to improve the road network and traffic management to make access to the area easier.

The plan also offers investment packages to the private sector institutions that involve real estate owners and small investors through encouraging individual development initiatives.