Riyadh Front is reaching its final stage. Could you tell us more about the latest developments?
ABDULLAH ALFASSAM We consider the current stage to be the soft opening of phase one, and already some of our tenants have moved in. In 2019, we expect the entire project to be opened officially. When we look for tenants, we are truly focused on the quality, both for shopping and office space. On the shopping front, we have signed to open the largest cinema in Saudi Arabia and the largest Virgin Megastore in the Middle East. Aside from flagship stores, we are looking at the customer experience, especially in terms of entertainment, F&B offerings, and a variety of fashion and luxury brands. We plan to provide a 360-degree environment in terms of structure, architect design, landscape, and surface. The facility has been built to host different types of activities and events. We have a dedicated area for art exhibitions and aim to become a cultural hub and meeting point for artists in Riyadh. One of these plans is to have competitions among artists to temporarily design this space during special events in the Kingdom, such as New Year's Eve, Eid, or Ramadan. We have built an arcade along an entire side of the project. The technique used here to open and close the whole area is modeled after Zorlu Center in Istanbul. The climate control systems here are unique to Saudi Arabia. To develop our office spaces, we have signed up global accounting firm KPMG, Jolly Chic, and Saudi Arabia's Noon.
How have your operations advanced since launching the business in Saudi in 2016?
AYKUT KAYA TAMEAR is a joint venture company between Al Akaria (60%) and Kaya Homes (40%). We are a contracting company focusing primarily on residential buildings using the latest technology in the sector, for example steel and aluminum formwork systems that are faster and costs less. In the last three years, we have completed construction in the diplomatic quarter to include 21 buildings and 68 apartments as well as 162 compound project apartments in the Al Najaz area. After six months, we will have completed 567 villas in Thumamah. We are currently negotiating a project deal in Medina for 768 apartments and finalizing a further 800 villas in Taif. I am grateful to Al Akaria, as it is a reputable Saudi brand that has given us a great advantage. We are the executive arm of this JV. Over the last three years, we have adapted ourselves to the market and quickly gained a reputation for being fast and high-quality contractors. My goal is to strengthen our presence in Saudi Arabia, to be useful both here and also in my homeland Turkey. We also want to educate, train, encourage, and develop trainee programs for young Saudi engineers here. We want to give them the opportunity to be part of our success and something bigger.
How do you approach environmental sustainability in the Riyadh Front?
AA For all our projects, we rely heavily on green and open areas. This is a significant challenge in a country like Saudi Arabia, but it gives great added value to the projects. For example, the coverage area for both projects, which is how much we build on a plot, is less than 20%. This is a low rate, with 80% open and green. This is an environment that requires a great deal of investment and operational costs, which is a key part of our master planning.
How did you enter the Saudi market?
AK From the beginning, Saudis favored the fact that we kept to our deadlines, kept costs low, and produced high-quality designs, so we were soon approached to project manage 28 villas using form work system. At that time, no one was using this system for residential projects, though we had in Turkey and received great accolades for doing so. We were offered the contract, and this was a great first experience for us and introduced us to the market. Turkey is well known for construction and advanced interior design, which has given us a big advantage in quality, finishing, and discipline. After this first project, we were approached to form a joint venture company, which has been a healthy and successful association. We are grateful for the opportunities Saudi Arabia has presented us.