A Kilometer in the Sky

03/04/2013 7:00 am EST


Dubai’s Burj Khalifa has only five years left as the world’s tallest building if Kingdom Tower, a kilometer-tall skyscraper in Saudi Arabia goes ahead as planned, writes Lucy Barnard of The National.

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was a marvel when it opened in 2010—the tallest building in the world by more than 1,000 feet, or 30%, a gap that alone could easily have fit the Chrysler Building or Los Angeles' US Bank Tower.

But it may have only five years left as the king of skyscrapers if Kingdom Tower, a kilometer-tall (roughly 3,300 feet) skyscraper in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, goes ahead as planned.

Yesterday the developers planning to build the world’s latest tallest building appointed builder Mace and EC Harris, the project manager behind Abu Dhabi’s largest hotel complex and London's The Shard skyscraper, to manage construction of the $1.2 billion Kingdom Project to the north of Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city.

Jeddah Economic Company (JEC) also appointed the EC Harris and Mace joint venture to provide commercial and design management for the development, which when completed will be higher than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and four times the size of The Shard in London.

The 5.4-million-square-foot tower will include a Four Seasons hotel, serviced apartments, offices, flats and the world’s highest observatory. Construction work is due to start on site on April 1, and is expected to be completed in 2018.

“The vision of constructing the tallest tower in the world in Jeddah belongs to Prince Al Waleed bin Talal,” said Waleed Abdul Jaleel Batterjee, the chief executive of JEC. “His vision is also that the project itself will set the world’s sights on our beloved Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and particularly on Jeddah. Furthermore, the project will help create hundreds of jobs for our Saudi countrymen.”

Prince Al Waleed, one of the world's richest men, owns a third of JEC through his Kingdom Holding Company. He has repeatedly refused to specify the exact planned height of the Kingdom Tower to avoid tipping off competitors. Other partners in the JEC coalition include the Saudi Binladin Group and two well-known Saudi businessmen.

“Kingdom Tower is a project of international importance and immense ambition,” said Mark Reynolds, the chief executive of Mace. “Prince Al Waleed bin Talal’s vision...will secure international recognition for the kingdom’s economic and cultural status.”

“The Kingdom Tower is a landmark building that will clearly demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to the world,” added Keith Brooks, the head of property and social infrastructure at EC Harris.

Kingdom Tower will be the centerpiece of Jeddah’s $20 billion Kingdom City development, a 2-square-mile project that was originally announced in 2008. Kingdom City will comprise homes, shops, hotels, and schools located around a series of lakes and canals.

In 2009, it announced that Dubai’s Emaar Properties would develop the tower and supervise its construction, although the tie-up appears to have been shelved.

During the global financial crisis, Kingdom officials consistently denied reports the tower had been cancelled, and in 2011 announced that it had signed a 4.6 billion Saudi riyal ($1.23 billion) deal with Saudi Binladin Group to build the tower, which included SBL taking a stake in the mega scheme.

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