Saudi Arabia's Rikaz Group is nearing completion on its mall project in Jeddah, which is gradually emerging as a viable retail hub.

Investments are in the range of 300 million riyals.

The Serafi Mega Mall is to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2004, and will have a built-up area of 100,000 square metres and a leasable area of 65,000 square metres.

The group has also set its sights on an ambitious one billion riyal mixed use project, which will be located opposite the Serafi Mega Mall.

The project will feature a twin tower, a mall of its own, and an extensive area for office space.

According to current estimates, it will have a total built up area of 200,000 square metres and a retail space of 600,000 square metres.

Financing for the project is to be met by a mix of internal resources and external financing arrangements, the official went on to add.

"In recent times, Jeddah has seen a population boom and has gained in prominence as the kingdom's commercial capital. There is also Jeddah's proximity factor to the Holy City of Makkah, with the authorities allowing more visitors to come for Umrah," said Tariq Ahmed Baswaid, general manager of Rikaz.

"Against this backdrop, Jeddah requires many shopping centres that can cater to a population of nearly three million, which includes those in areas across the Western region. Currently, there is a shortage of mall and retail centres in Jeddah."

In contrast, Riyadh has in recent times seen the development of the landmark Kingdom Centre.

Meanwhile, the Serafi Mega Mall will have over 200 retail outlets, five anchor stores and a 15,000 square metre hypermarket, which has been taken up by Saudi-based Al Danube Group. The hypermarket will have parking space for up to 1,200 cars.

"Driven by a largely young population and a rapidly growing retail sector, there has been a rapid development of the shopping concept in the kingdom," said Baswaid.