How has the PSCC project evolved from an exhibition center to a massive multi-use real estate development?
It was initiated by HRH Prince Khaled Al-Faisal in order to have a dedicated Jeddah exhibition and convention center. The idea started from that, but this was during the late Prince Sultan's life. I wanted to do something that carried on his name because he was well known for his charity and support. Projects such as this are normally executed by a city municipality, or the Chamber of Commerce, because they do not usually make money as a development. Such projects only bring money in for the city once you have an exhibition, and they form a part of your tourism sector. At that time, we thought we had to have another business opportunity that could support this project and sustain itself. From that, we knew we had to create more business-oriented projects. We thought about what Jeddah needs and what it is known for. In the early days Jeddah was also known for its healthcare tourism. There were more private hospitals located there than in any other city in the area. We decided we should revive this business again, and hence we looked at establishing a medical park. We worked to bring in top medical operators from the US, such as the Methodist Hospital from Texas. They are leaders in certain areas, such as cancer and heart disease. To achieve this high standard of healthcare, we also needed to bring in doctors. There are outstanding doctors here. Then, we needed to have proper housing for them, and from that, proper schools for their children, and then universities, and then shopping centers. In this way, the project came together as a lifestyle and wellness concept.
What economic effects will the PSCC have on the city of Jeddah?
Beyond a social impact, it will also have an economic impact. We are not doing the whole thing ourselves; we are developing the city, but we are also giving the opportunity to businesspeople to come and invest. They are the ones that are going to develop the hotels, schools, and sub-developments. In this way, we have created a chain of economic impact for the businesspeople of Jeddah. We have created the opportunities for companies and businesspeople to come and invest. This project will also have an impact on unemployment. With this and the medical park, we have created 5-6,000 jobs. We have created opportunities for people to work in the hotels, restaurants, medical facilities, exhibition spaces, and much more. Again, it is our aim not only to produce profit for the investors, but also for other reasons—we are creating jobs and a lifestyle for our children.
How much investor interest is there this far into the project?
Around 70-80% of the project is already committed. This is from local and international investors. We aim to have international associations. For example, for the medical development, any party that wants to come in and invest in a hospital has to have an international partner. With this, we have attracted foreign investment from Europe—Austria, Germany, and France. Even the hotels, schools, and exhibition areas have international operators as our partners. They are bringing in their own equity.
Where do you see the project by the end of 2015?
We are hoping to have people living and going to school here by the summer of 2017. By the beginning of 2018 the hospital will be open to the public. We are hoping that it will be three to five years maximum for the project to open. The project is being developed on a lease basis, therefore now participants are paying rent. The components depend on each other. For example, the school needs the housing, and the housing needs the restaurants. They are all connected, hence they have to finish at the same time.