AECOM to manage $15bn regeneration of Al-‘Ula

  • November 8, 2021
  • William Payne

Dallas based infrastructure consulting firm AECOM has been retained by the Saudi Royal Commission for Al-‘Ula to accelerate the regeneration of Al-‘Ula, a city located in northwest Saudi Arabia.

The regeneration of Al-‘Ula is a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a programme to diversify the country’s economy and society, with increased urbanisation, greater opportunity, and the transformation of cities with new technologies and industries, including smart and connected technologies such as e-Government.

Al-‘Ula is a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in north-west Saudi Arabia. The Royal Commission for Al-‘Ula (RCU) is aiming for a responsible, sustainable, and sensitive approach to urban and economic development that preserves the area’s natural and historic heritage, while establishing Al-‘Ula as a desirable location to live, work, and visit. This encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts, reflecting a commitment to meeting the economic diversification, local community empowerment, and heritage preservation priorities of the Saudi Vision 2030 programme.

The agreement with AECOM sets out a comprehensive development timeline based around three phases that lead up to 2035 with AECOM’s programme management team implementing the $15-billion Phase 1 development in Al-‘Ula’s core 20 kilometre historical area. This incorporates social, economic and sustainability projects in five hubs with a focus on infrastructure, hospitality, arts and culture, and social and community development.

AECOM will establish a Lead Design Office responsible for all infrastructure design activities from setting standards, delivering the digital ecosystem, leading innovation, managing designers, delivering scopes and supporting the realisation of a carbon-neutral strategy and circular economy. Further, asset and facilities management will be provided for the project lifecycle along with the benchmarking and development of smart city plans and projects. The value of AECOM’s contract is expected to be included in its reported backlog in the first quarter of fiscal 2022.

Creating opportunities for the local community is a core aspect of Al-‘Ula’s development plan and AECOM’s approach. AECOM has already invested in training 400 Al-‘Ula residents to achieve professional vocational qualifications and will provide additional professional skills development and knowledge transfer opportunities both for residents and those relocating to Al-‘Ula for work.

“Al-‘Ula is one of the world’s largest and most complex development programmes, home to more than 30,000 sites of historical significance, and we are proud to help realise the city’s vision for the future,” said Lara Poloni, AECOM’s president. “In partnership with RCU, we look forward to leveraging our global programme management and technical expertise to deliver a sustainable legacy that transforms Al-‘Ula for generations to come.”

Through the partnership, AECOM will accelerate business and investment opportunities from 2022 onwards and demonstrate the pace of progress to revitalise Al-‘Ula as a responsible, sustainable and community-inclusive destination.

“This new long-term strategic partnership with AECOM is critical to realising our ambition of creating a global benchmark for sustainable tourism,” said Amr AlMadani, RCU’s chief executive officer. “As we establish Al-‘Ula as an exciting business hub servicing the northwest Arabia region, we require world-class partners such as AECOM who share our desire to benefit the people of Al-‘Ula while creating unforgettable experiences for visitors.”

“We are excited to provide a range of integrated services across the entire Al-‘Ula programme,” said Drew Jeter, chief executive of AECOM’s global Program Management business. “Our services will include programme management to integrate all workstreams and major initiatives across RCU to implement the Al-‘Ula vision and outcomes, as well as a project delivery office that will work with RCU to implement best practices and delivery from design to construction and operation.”