Aqar is preparing a masterplan for the adjoining plots, which is expected to include the construction of 12-storey residential apartment blocks, a hotel, prayer areas and underground car parks.

The municipality is already overseeing construction of a central bus station on a 30,000-square-metre plot of land next to the Aqar development.

Two neighbouring properties, plots 5001 and 5002, were sold for a total of $85 million at an auction held in mid-April – the equivalent of about $27,000 and $24,000 a square metre respectively. Under the five-year plan for central Medina, the unnamed buyers will also be required to build high-rise residential buildings, hotels and several storeys of commercial space (MEED 26:4:02).

The ongoing development of the central areas of Mecca and Medina will involve the demolition of deteriorating high-rise accommodation and the construction of new facilities for the estimated 2 million pilgrims due to arrive in the kingdom for the annual hajj. Properties in the centres of the two cities command some of the highest real estate prices in the world.