Saudi Arabia took a key step forward Tuesday in its plan to build the world’s tallest tower and outdo Gulf neighbor Dubai, which inaugurated its own record-breaking skyscraper less than two years ago.
The Saudis awarded a more than $1 billion contract for a spire that will soar two-thirds of a mile high, to be named the Kingdom Tower. It will have a luxury hotel, serviced apartments, condominiums and offices, encompassing some 5.4 million square feet.
The plans make Saudi Arabia a front-runner in the competition between the oil-rich Gulf nations for glitzy, architectural trophies that dot their desert territories with such status symbols as glimmering skyscrapers and elaborate, artificial islands.
Kingdom Holding Co., the investment firm headed by billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, said it signed a $1.2 billion deal with the Saudi Binladen Group to build Kingdom Tower on the outskirts of the Red Sea city of Jiddah.
The construction giant is owned by the family of Osama bin Laden. The family disavowed the slain al-Qaida terror group leader years ago.
The venture is seen as a key part of Saudi ambitions to diversify its economy away from the crude oil that has fueled it for decades.
The tower, to exceed 3,300 feet in height was designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture. It is the initial phase of the planned Kingdom City, a two-square-mile, $20 billion urban development project first announced in 2008.
In June 2009, KHC signed a deal with Dubai-based Emaar Properties to develop and oversee the construction of Kingdom City and Kingdom Tower.
Emaar, which is partly owned by Dubai’s government, also is the developer of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which at 2,717 feet can boast 160 livable floors and a boutique Armani hotel.
That tower in Dubai, one of the seven sheikdoms making up the United Arab Emirates, opened in January 2010.
By comparison, the tallest building in the United States, Willis Tower in Chicago, rises 1,451 feet — plus the 278-foot antenna towers that top it.
The One World Trade Center, now being built in New York City, will measure 1,776 feet with its antenna spire. It’s due for completion in 2013.