Adaptive Re-use Dominates Hotel Builds

Adaptive re-use is starting to dominate hotel development. In the last year-and-a-half, R.D. Olson Construction says that the majority of its hotel projects have been major redevelopments or adaptive reuse projects. The construction company recently completed an adaptive re-use hotel project near LAX, converting a dilapidated office building into a dual-branded hotel.

“In the last three to five years, there has been a greater need for additional hotel rooms,” Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction, tells “So, there has been a lot of activity and a lot of hotel renovations. About 60% of our construction volume is in hospitality, and in the last year-and-a-half, we have seen a tremendous swing going from ground-up to adaptive reuse and major renovations. Before, we were running about 55% new, and now we have flipped it to where we are doing about 58% in adaptive reuse and the balance is in new construction.”

It makes sense that adaptive re-use has become popular for hotel projects. They are less expensive than ground-up construction and reserve character. Most importantly, however, they are much faster to build. “When you have an adaptive reuse opportunity, there are a lot of positives,” says Wilhelm. “One is the speed at which you can get a project up and running to where you have heads on beds, as we call it in the hotel industry. Two, when you look at the overall cost of construction for replacement cost, typically, you can find yourself a building that has a lot of character that you can use. It is more economical than doing ground-up construction.”

Adaptive re-use also helps to hedge against a potential downturn. Because the hotel is profitable more quickly, it can be a good tool for developers looking to get off the ground. “A lot of hotel developers and owners understand the demand, and it has become all about speed and how to get heads on beds,” adds Wilhelm. “We are trying to beat the industry when the industry starts to soften up. We are starting to see some of that. For the first time in six years, we have seen a decrease in new hotel starts. We are getting to the supply demand level where you are going to have to be careful with how many rooms you bring into a general area.”

The 12 story, 260,000-square-foot H Hotel adaptive re-use project took approximately 17 months to complete.

Safety Concerns in The Construction Industry

Safety is a culture, and educational programs need to be put in place to instill this culture and ensure that individuals are aware of their surroundings, R.D. Olson’s Bill Wilhelm tells

NEWPORT BEACH, CA—Safety is a culture, and educational programs need to be put in place to instill this culture and ensure that individuals in the construction industry are aware of their surroundings in the, R.D. Olson Construction’s president Bill Wilhelm tells Implementing proper protocols from the start not only keeps workers safe, but also increases speed and productivity, he adds. We spoke with Wilhelm about how companies can improve their safety records and create a better working environment for employees and subcontractors. What are the top safety issues in the construction industry right now?

Wilhelm: The hottest issue in safety continues to be fall protection. Whether it is prioritizing the installation of safe scaffolding on the side of buildings or managing holes that go through the floor, potential causes for falls should always be closely monitored on construction sites.

Ear and eye protection are also some of the most critical safety concerns. Eyes are most vulnerable because they are the most exposed, and sparks from welding jobs, saws and other tools are common with any construction project. All individuals on a construction site need to wear proper hearing and eye protection to prevent injury. How can companies prevent safety issues from occurring?

Wilhelm: Safety is a culture, and educational programs need to be put in place to instill this culture and ensure individuals are aware of their surroundings. At R.D. Olson Construction, our employees are OSHA 30 certified, ensuring they have the training they need to promote our culture of safety. We have safety events and safety tailgates as often as once per week on job sites. Our safety directors also do full safety inspections on site at least once every other week. Safety is an ongoing part of our training and education, and is fostered across all levels—from management and employees to subcontractors and other project partners.

Regardless of the issue, safety as a whole is all about communication. On every site, you need to first identify the tasks that are taking place and what safety measures need to be implemented during every step of the construction process. Zoning, which involves cordoning off spaces when certain tasks are taking place to ensure those nearby aren’t at risk of being injured, is often part of our safety protocol. From a cost and productivity perspective, what are the benefits to implementing proper safety protocols and education programs from the start?

Wilhelm: Ensuring the safety of workers should always be the top priority, no matter the cost. However, the cost of implementing these protocols and education programs is often negligible and nearly always saves money in the long run. Safety issues, no matter how minor, can delay a project significantly, affect worker morale and lead to costly investigations. Implementing proper protocols and training from the start is the right thing to do, but it also has the added benefit of increasing speed and productivity. What else should readers know about this topic?

Wilhelm: An often overlooked, but extremely important, safety concern is exhaustion and general wear and tear on workers’ bodies. Tired workers present a very serious safety issue on job sites, and with an industry-wide talent shortage, it’s even more of a concern. Exhaustion can cause experienced workers to make simple, split-second mistakes that could be deadly. Companies can take preventative measures by ensuring that employees and subcontractors aren’t working too many hours and that the building schedule is realistic from the start.

R.D. Olson’s latest Aviation Inspired Hotel Project on the Local News.

R.D. Olson Construction Highlighted in the Orange County Business Journal

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R.D. Olson Construction named Civic 50 Orange County Honoree

The Orange County Business Journal (OCBJ) today announced the 50 most community-minded companies in Orange County. The Civic 50 Orange County, presented by the OCBJ and in partnership with OneOC, provides a local standard for superior citizenship and showcases how companies can use their time, skills, and other resources to improve the quality of life in the community where they do business. This is the first time the Civic 50, a national initiative of Points of Light, has been localized to a specific market.

Since 2012, the Civic 50 has recognized the 50 most community-minded companies in the nation each year as determined by an annual survey developed by True Impact.  For Orange County, honorees were determined using True Impact's adapted national Civic 50 online survey that is independently administered and scored.

Companies were selected based upon four dimensions of their community engagement programs: investment, integration, institutionalization and impact. The Civic 50 OC honorees include businesses from three categories: small, medium and large (based on the company's number of local employees.

The inaugural Civic 50 )C Awards luncheon will be held October 19, 2017 at the Hotel Irvine featuring keynote speaker Matthew Emerizian, founder and CEO of Every Monday Matters. All 50 honorees will be recognized at the event , and five awards will be given in the following categories: small, medium and large company; emerging company; and legacy company.

R.D. Olson Construction Named as One of the Best Places to Work in Orange County for the Second Year in A Row

We were just notified that we have once again made the list of Best Places to Work in Orange County. We have attempted to receive the award twice and have successfully made the list both times, so that speaks volumes to the atmosphere that all our associates try to cultivate within the walls of our office as well as out in the field on our project sites. The incredible positivity that all our associates possess is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that drives our business forward. When our associates are able to make decisions for the way they handle their job and are rewarded consistently for their initiative, it makes for a truly great and dynamic corporate environment.

What Determines If Hotel Projects Move Forward?

By Carrie Rossenfeld -

IRVINE, CA—Timing is a major issue in hotel projects as this point; if a project is not far enough along in drawings, permits, etc., it may not make it off the ground, R.D. Olson Construction’s president Bill Wilhelm tells The firm, a successful builder of hotel properties in California recently completed construction on Homewood Suites by Hilton Irvine/John Wayne Airport. The ground-up project marks the firm’s first partnership with Irvine-based hotel management and development company DKN Hotels.

The four-story, 161-room hotel is located in the Irvine business and industrial district and is close to Orange County shopping centers the District, South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island. The hotel represents the firm’s third completed project in Irvine, with the Irvine Spectrum Marriott currently underway.

The 126,000-square-foot hotel boasts studios and one- and two-bedroom suites with 42‑inch HDTVs and kitchens that include a full-size refrigerator, microwave, stove and dishwasher. The property’s outdoor amenities include a pool and spa, fire pit, BBQ grills and a sports court with options for basketball, volleyball, badminton and smashball. R.D. Olson also recently completed work on the 174-room Country Inns & Suites by Carlson in the Anaheim Resort District and the 200-room Residence Inn by Marriott hotel in Wailea, Maui, HI, the first family-centric hotel in Wailea. Other recent completions include Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach, CA, the 144-room Residence Inn by Marriott in Old Town Pasadena, CA, and the 94-room Hampton Inn & Suites in Glendale, CA. The firm is currently building additional regional hospitality projects including the 130-room Lido House Hotel resort in Newport Beach, CA; the 271-room full-service Irvine Spectrum Marriott in Irvine, CA; and the 118-room Residence Inn by Marriott Santa Barbara/Goleta in Goleta, CA.

We spoke with Wilhelm about the Homewood Suites project, hotel-development trends he is noticing in Orange County and takeaways from ALIS, which he recently attended. Why was this project a good fit for the airport market? 

Wilhelm: It is in kind of a secondary airport to the market, and based on its vicinity to the airport, will allow it to be a strong secondary feeder to the airport market. It’s not directly at the airport, but a spit throw away. It has easy access, and it’s in an area with a lot of corporate business, more industrial type of business. It’s a great location: off the beaten path, but with great geographic identification. Also, Tustin’s Marine Corps Air Station is still going thru major discussions—what will they do and what will happen. It’s the first steps to what will eventually be promising development in that area. What hotel-development trends are you noticing in Orange County?

Wilhelm: There are two trends. One is that Orange County itself has had so much growth take place—both residential growth and continued enhancement of corporate growth. The business sector and the growth of tourism, Disneyland and that whole market has been strong. Disneyland continues to do what the Irvine Spectrum area is doing: constantly challenge themselves by asking, “What are we current with what are the general population’s needs? What can we offer our guests in terms of more experiences? They’re always thinking outside the box on enhancements. Irvine Spectrum, too, constantly challenges itself as far as what the needs are today. In the Spectrum area, some retail pieces have come and gone, and they’re stepping up more food-service providers. They’ve done a good job of putting great restaurants in and entertainment so people want to hang out there—you can have a great dinner and people watch. You have the tourist side of it and also the corporate business side of it. When you look at the occupancy and rental part of it in the Orange County market, so many things are taking place where companies are repositioning and expanding based on the opportunities.

The office side has also picked up. But from a hospitality perspective, Orange County is an area that has done well and has additional growth opportunities because you have multiple feeders: tourism, corporate and residential. What trends did you notice at this year’s ALIS conference?

Wilhelm: The overall trend is one of a little bit of caution. Predictions still show a very strong year, 2017 going into 2018; predictions are that they will be equivalent to 2016, and there may be a little bit of growth. There are a number of projects that are in planning, under construction and in development.

I look at timing and finance. I really want to understand where they are in the timing cycle: drawings, permits, where are they in their financing? There’s a concern that somewhere down the road, we will start to see a few deals not go forward because of timing. We’re also seeing some developers that recognize that. Everyone is looking forward and trying to make that mad dash to the finish line; there’s a lot of adaptive reuse where the individual can get their hands on a property and be out there in renovation mode, and then 12 to 14 months later, they now have heads on beds; whereas, a new property could take 14 to 24 months or longer. A lot of it is geographic, too—the market will play a stronghold, and primary markets will always do well.

I’ve heard the saying, “California isn’t overbuilt; it’s under-demolished.” From a hotel perspective that’s so true. There are so many older properties, but what will it take to bring a 25-year-old property to current standards. I think in today’s world, everyone’s willing to pay a few more dollars for a fresh, new property that provides the experience that people are seeking. You want to be out and engaged with socialization around you, whether out by pool or in the lobby. There’s a lot of business taking place in common areas among people who may not even be guests of the hotel, but are using the business-area environment. It’s a way to do business to have a cup of coffee and have a meeting. What does your firm currently have in the pipeline?

Wilhelm: We’re busy, but always looking for great opportunities. We have some nice projects under construction today in hospitality, including new ground-up hotels and adaptive reuse that converts office to hotels. We’re doing a refresh of Palomar Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA—we’re refurbishing the lobby, bar area and amenities. We’re also in the time-share market and the education market. Among all those markets, I still see another 18 months of active work with some pretty exciting projects./p

R.D. Olson Contributes Insight to the Wall Street Journal

Immigrant Crackdown Worries Food and Construction Industries

By Jacob Bunge, Heather Haddon, and Eric Morath


Memos issued by the Trump administration on Tuesday said millions of people living illegally in the U.S. are subject to deportation and called on local authorities to enforce immigration laws.

The announcement set many in the food business in particular on edge. “We’re preparing our members as best we can,” said Jim Bogart, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, which represents producers of vegetables, mushrooms and grapes.

An executive order signed by President Donald Trump last month banning entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries for at least 90 days over terrorism concerns has been held up by courts.

A White House official on Wednesday confirmed that it wouldn’t issue its revised executive order on immigration travel restrictions until next week. The administration had previously said it would release a new order this week.

Administration officials suggested the new executive order would have a similar aim as the previous one. In an interview on Fox News on Tuesday, policy adviser Stephen Miller said, “Fundamentally you’re going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country.”

The agriculture and construction industries have relied on immigrants for decades to do tough, low-paying jobs U.S. citizens often avoid, from picking berries to slicing up hogs to erecting framing for houses. Many of these workers are undocumented.

“Business is business, and whether it’s the farming industry or the construction industry, we already have a resource issue,” said Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction in Irvine, Calif., which specializes in hotel construction. “You already have a shortage of documented individuals. So if you have fewer and fewer undocumented, at the end of the day it’s going to have an impact on projects.”

Foreign-born workers make up about three-quarters of the roughly 1.1 million workers on U.S. farms, and nearly half aren’t legally authorized to work, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the construction industry, 13% of workers in 2014 were undocumented, according to data from the Pew Research Center, along with about 9% of workers in the leisure and hospitality industry, which includes restaurants.

Labor-strapped American employers increasingly rely on immigrants—including those in the U.S. illegally—to counter the trend of an aging native-born population. If millions of illegal immigrants were deported, “you would have massive labor shortages,” said University of Michigan labor economist Donald Grimes.

Department of Homeland Security officials said their limited resources mean they would focus on immigrants who pose a public-safety risk. But they also said immigrants aren’t exempt from deportation just because they don’t fall into a priority group. “The enforcement priorities are criminal aliens as well as those who pose national-security and public-safety threats,” said White House spokesman Michael Short on Wednesday.

In Fresno, Calif., immigration attorney Camille Cook said she is helping to organize rapid-response teams for the area’s farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Those teams aim to advise dairy and crop workers on their rights if immigration authorities show up on their doorsteps, she said.

Not all of the changes—like expedited removals for immigrants—will take effect immediately. Carol Meylan, director of Intra-Agency Programs at Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, said she expected most effects of the executive orders wouldn’t be felt for several months as the government hires more border-patrol agents and puts new procedures in place.

Still, Ms. Meylan said, “with 5,000 more border-patrol officers [planned], we’re anticipating there’s going to be a big change.”

Mr. Wilhelm of R.D. Olson Construction said he is waiting to see the impact of the government’s moves but expects that stepped-up deportations would affect all operators in his industry.

Immigrants wait for work last month at a day-labor pickup site in Stamford, Conn. The city has an official zone for employers to pick up such workers.

The Grower-Shipper Association, based in Salinas, Calif., has issued recommendations since last month about how to respond to immigration raids, outlining workers’ rights and current immigration policies in coordination with other industry groups. Mr. Bogart said half his days now are dedicated to calls with producers and lawmakers to discuss immigration issues.

Others are already seeing fallout from the tougher tone from the Trump administration. Paul Halderson said his 1,200-cow dairy farm near La Crosse, Wis., was left short-handed after losing a handful of immigrant employees in recent weeks, who opted to return to Mexico.

While Mr. Halderson said his employees all have legal standing to work in the U.S., some have worried about family members and the general climate for immigrants. “It is unrealistic to believe that dairy farming can continue as it is without the Mexican employees,” said Mr. Halderson.

Harold McClarty, co-founder of HMC Farms in California’s Fresno County, estimated the crackdown could lead to millions of dollars in losses for his stone-fruit and table-grape operation.

The restaurant industry, which also relies heavily on foreign-born workers, has long used E-Verify, a federal worker-screening program that allows employers to check employees’ legal status online.

“We have let our franchisees know of the increased activity and used it as an opportunity to remind them…that all franchisees use E-Verify,” said a spokeswoman for Dunkin Brands Group Inc., owner of Dunkin’ Donuts, which was an early adopter of E-Verify.

—Chris Kirkham, Julie Jargon and Ian Lovett contributed to this article.

Four R.D. Olson Projects Mentioned and Honored in California Meeting and Events Magazine

It's remarkable to have four of our recent projects mentioned and honored in California Meeting & Events Magazine's Winter Issue. The anticipation for the Irvine Spectrum Marriott (page 29) and Lido House Hotel (page 44) is increasing, while Pasea Hotel & Spa is named "Best New Venue" and W Hotel is named "Best Renovation" (page 39). Check all the full stories here.

CEO, Bob Olson, recognized in the Orange County Business Journal’s OC500



Build Magazine recognizes R.D. Olson Construction as Most Innovative General Contractor and Most Innovative Hotel/Resort Project for the Pasea Hotel & Spa



More public spaces. Catering to international visitors. Hotels with local flair.

Those are just a few trends veteran developer Bob Olson is seeing in the hotel industry. He owns Irvine-based R.D. Olson Construction and Newport Beach-based R.D. Olson Development, both of which are juggling half a dozen hotel projects in an industry seeing years of growth after the Great Recession.

Hotel expansion in Orange County is ongoing, as developers (in addition to Olson) build out 10 new hotels, which will add 1,504 rooms to the marketplace. Six hotels already have opened this year, according to Irvine-based Atlas Hospitality Group.

“There are markets that are getting overbuilt,” Olson said. “The losers in those markets will be the old hotels. It's not that we'll be overbuilt – we'll be under-demolished.”

Alan Reay, president of the Irvine-based real estate company Atlas Hospitality Group, agrees.

“Year-to-date hotel rooms under construction for the U.S. are up almost 30 percent from where they were last year,” Reay said. “A lot of people are worried that we're building too many hotel rooms.

“It's really a big threat to the older hotels that haven't been updated or renovated. A lot of the hotels have lost their franchise because they haven't kept up and are suffering. These are the hotels that will have to be demolished.”

The Register sat down with Olson and Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction, to discuss the industry and their projects underway. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

The Lido House Hotel in Newport Beach is a huge, historic project. Can you tell me about plans for the development?

Olson: That property is the old City Hall. We had to compete to win that project. I live in Newport Beach. So for me it was pretty simple what the concept should be. The concept is Newport nautical architecture and lifestyle. Our whole concept is to be curators of Newport Beach. We're one year away from opening.

On the development side, how do you select what properties you want to be involved with?

Olson: We focus on the markets we like, which have multiple demand generators. Then we work to try and find the land. The last 15 hotel's we've developed are ground up. We've opened 11 since the Great Recession.

How hard is it to develop a project like the Paséa, right across from the beach?

Olson: You could not do a project like this again today. The entitlement process took the original developers 11 years to get the entitlements, and they got hit by the Great Recession. We were fortunate to buy this with all the entitlements. But the property plans are our own plans, nobody else's. We brought in Pacific Hospitality Group as our operating partner and co-developer.

Are these considerations different from the construction side?

Wilhelm: We look at the customer, the client, the partner. Location is also important, but also the uniqueness of the property. Whether it's a hospitality project or one of our timeshare projects or even an education project, it's finding a product that's special to the community.

How has Airbnb affected the hotel industry?

Olson: It's hard to measure. We know that when the Super Bowl happened, Airbnb took the top off the demand, or the hotels didn't sell out because that last demand went to Airbnb. But we're not seeing an affect on our hotels. For us, we need to be able to compete. We need to provide our guests something that Airbnb can't, is not or cannot do.

Are you seeing more demand to work on existing hotels?

Wilhelm: The Los Angeles market is a very hot market right now for revamping and reuse and repositioning. We're starting to see it some in the Orange County market, but not to the extent of the L.A. market, which is doing things like taking an office building and repurposing it as a hospitality project.

Last year, about 97 percent of hospitality projects were “new ground up.” Today, about 51 percent is adaptability, reposition and renovation, and only 49 percent is new ground up. We're starting to see a swing in that market. Part of it is saturation of the new ground up, the ability of developers to find land, the price side of the equation, getting to market as fast as they can and development costs which are making deals more difficult. Construction costs over the last 12 months have soared 10-15 percent in California.

Olson: Part of it's new building codes, energy code changes which is affecting internal systems, the mechanical systems.

Are there any issues finding workers?

Olson: There are huge resource issues now. Resources are a huge cost. R.D. Olson has longstanding relationships with subcontractors. It really gives us a competitive advantage. Bill has access to companies, to subcontractors, who love working with him because of what we do. We get jobs done, everybody gets paid and it's a good project.

For R.D. Olson Development, having a construction company is a competitive advantage in the marketplace as well.

Wilhelm: That's why the right customer fit is so important. We're bringing our subcontractors to the table, guys that rely on us for funding. And they are guys that we can count on because they know they are getting paid on time. We really focus on the relations. We spend more time today on enhancing those relationships and building new relationships. We need to have subs capable of doing work on all the different types of projects we do.

There's also a geographic element. A year ago, you could take guys from Orange County to Los Angeles. Today, it just doesn't happen. Resources are limited, so you need to manage relationships in geographic areas. Guys don't go out as far when there's work for them right in their backyard.

Orange County's tourism groups have made huge efforts to attract more international tourists to Orange County. Are you seeing more of these visitors at your properties, and is there anything being done to attract these customers specifically?

Olson: Orange County is a great destination for international travelers. We're especially seeing a lot of visitors from the China market.

We just finished one project, the Casino Hotel in Bell Gardens, that was truly designed and implemented based on the Asian gambling traveler. We're involved in a couple of hotels today at LAX airport, and part of that theme is the international travelers, providing for them once they've checked out but have six, seven, eight hours to kill before their flight. We're creating special guest services rooms that are suited to the different Asian cultures. Our menus are also adapting to the Asian traveler.

Our biggest growth for the international market is definitely China; 200 million middle-class people are in China. That's more than half of our population. The numbers are staggering.

What do you think the hotel industry will look like in the next few years?

Olson: When you stay at our hotels, you really feel connected to where you are. The Paséa is all about a beach community. I've watched international travelers come in with amazement. In downtown Pasadena, that hotel is all about Old Town Pasadena, the architecture, the interior. You know you're in a town with a lot of history. Even though we work on branded hotels, too, there is always a theme. The theme for the Irvine Spectrum hotel is the Irvine Ranch and the history of the ranch. That will have a rooftop bar.

Public spaces are really becoming space to connect. When you walk through a hotel, there will be many places to sit down and connect in small groups.

Is there any part of the Orange County hotel industry that is untapped at this point?

Olson: If you look at where we're developing, you are going to see that it plays into our strategy of building where there are multiple demand generators and opportunities for new product.

Where are we now in the development cycle?

Olson: All developers want to know where we are in the cycle. We know where we were in 2009; it was terrible. Are we at the end of this cycle of recovery? Our philosophy as developers and builders is that we can't predict when the cycle ends, but we can be prepared for it. We're built for taking advantage of the great economic times and are prepared for the down times. The short-term horizon, we think, looks good.

Wilhelm: On the construction side, in the next couple years we still see sustainable growth. We're always looking for where we go next and how to respond to changes in the cycle. We're strengthening our core and looking at different industries.

Irvine and Anaheim seem to be major development hubs right now. Can you tell me about why there are so many hotels being built in these areas?

Olson: For Anaheim, it's the demand that Disneyland's creating. It's an incredible market with Disneyland and the convention business.

For Irvine, the Irvine Spectrum is the new growth area for Orange County, both established businesses and entrepreneurial businesses. It's the center, a gateway for quality housing, great, educated employees, and it really is the convalesce of tech, education, recreation, so many different demand generators and exciting things that are happening. With Great Park, the baseball fields and soccer fields and there's just so much for the community to do and for people outside of the community as well. The Irvine Co. is really creating a 24-hour city with the retail, the restaurants, the housing and the tech offices.

Can you tell me about the hotels you have in the works for each of these areas?

Wilhelm: In Irvine, we have our full-service property underway at the Spectrum, a 15-story Marriott. We're working on a Courtyard Inn and Suites in Anaheim, and we've got two other hotel properties in Anaheim we are working with existing clients on. That market is continuing to stay very hot.

R.D. Olson Construction Named as One of the Best Places to Work in Orange County

R.D. Olson Construction is incredibly proud to have been recognized as one of the top workplaces in Orange County for 2016. This achievement is attributed to our outstanding staff who go above and beyond to work as a team and stay connected as not just associates but as a family united.  The dedication of our team members is something that drives the entire success of our business and every individual within the organization makes it a pleasure for every other associate. Hard work can also be fun, and at R.D. Olson we constantly strive to make our environment as enjoyable as possible.

Building a Gem

The Irvine Spectrum Marriott will be Ideal for Work and Leisure. by Alan Dolrich

R.D. Olson Construction has built a reputation for seeking out projects that will leave a legacy in their communities. “We continually look for projects that are above the norm,” President Bill Wilhelm says. “We are attracted to unique and challenging projects that create opportunities to forge direct relationships with their surrounding communities. This gives us the chance to not only deliver authentic, local experiences for guests, but to engage locals to enjoy properties’ public amenities, such as onsite restaurants, that are available to both guests and community members alike.”

Irvine Spectrum Marriott reflects R.D. Olson Construction’s focus on providing benefits to the community through its projects. Located in the heart of the Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine, Calif., the 15-story hotel will be the first, full-service hotel project in the city in more than a decade.

When finished in the spring of 2017, the hotel will feature a rooftop lounge and bar, high-end amenities and 217 rooms, including 50 suites with full kitchens, and 121 king beds and 100 double queen bed configurations. It also will have more than 13,000 square feet of meeting and pre-function space, a 2,000-square-foot fitness center with CrossFit-style equipment, and a pool and spa area complete with outdoor fire pits and fireplaces.

RD Olson box

The hotel will be a good fit in the Irvine Spectrum community, Wilhelm says. “It’s a property that will be associated with a number of different venues in the area, serving the local office, residential and retail communities,” he says. “It will make a great splash and fill a void in the hospitality offerings in that area.”

The hotel’s amenities and meeting space allow ample opportunity for both work and leisure activities, Wilhelm adds, which is especially relevant given the property’s location nearby several major corporation headquarters and central Orange County housing and shopping. “The property allows for the flexibility to create environments that allow guests and visitors to accomplish their daily work and host corporate events. At the same time, if the family wants to tag along on a business trip, they can enjoy the best of what the full-service facility has to offer as well as nearby amenities,” he states.

Shared Values

R.D. Olson Construction’s sister company, R.D. Olson Development, is developing the project. This is not the duo’s first hotel for Marriott International in Irvine, Wilhelm says. “Irvine Spectrum Marriott is located adjacent to a Courtyard by Marriott that we constructed,” he says. “Those two properties will perform well for Marriott and provide business travelers and visitors with a variety of options.”

R.D. Olson Construction has much in common with Marriott, Wilhelm says. “Both companies really care about people and the end-user experience, and also continuously aim to be at the forefront of our respective industries,” he says.

On the Cutting-Edge

R.D. Olson Construction is building Irvine Spectrum Marriott with sustainability in mind, Wilhelm says. “With the new Title 24 credits in California emphasizing construction ‘greenness,’ more attention goes into every detail such as the electrical system and the way it monitors different circuitries,” he says. “By examining these back-end systems from the beginning, we can make sure that the property performs in a more environmentally-friendly way without placing large burdens on the end-user.”

Such sustainable features will make Irvine Spectrum Marriott an upgrade from  other hotels, Wilhelm adds. “It is definitely a property that will be a cut above the rest,” he says. “It is a true reflection of how many hotel brands are continuously upgrading their brand on a yearly basis.”

The hotel’s design is still being developed despite the construction process being underway, something to which R.D. Olson Construction is accustomed. “We’re part of that frontier team, out there working with ownership and Marriott on finishes, textures, colors and other elements that will give this property the ‘wow factor’ it needs to be cutting-edge and exceed guest expectations,” he says.

This design/build approach has become more common in the travel industry, as hotels want to stay in tune with what is popular with guests. “In about 80 percent of hotels that R.D. Olson builds, we’re in the trenches during the design phase, trying to make the concept the most successful it can be,” Wilhelm says.

In the case of Irvine Spectrum Marriott, the interior design will celebrate the rich history of the Irvine Ranch, in keeping with R.D. Olson’s dedication to paying homage to the communities in which its hotel projects are located.

Seeing Success

Based in Irvine, R.D. Olson Construction started operations in 1979 and provides general contracting and construction management services for clients nationally. Wilhelm, who joined the firm 22 years ago, credits its success to its people. “We’ve got the best in the industry, bar none,” he says.

Finding those people can sometimes be difficult, he admits. During the recession, “The construction industry lost a number of qualified craftsmen,” he recalls. “Some retired and some went into other industries.”

Like many, it was a challenge for R.D. Olson Construction to make up for the lost labor. However, the company “does a good job of managing that challenge,” he asserts. “We have strong relationships with our subcontractor community.”

He sees a strong future for the company, which has learned many lessons over the past 37 years. “We have always performed well during tough times,” Wilhelm says. “Because of our vast experience and industry knowledge, we’re able to anticipate downturns, and make adjustments accordingly.

“The company’s success and growth is attributed to the strong partnerships we have established with our customers,” he asserts. “There is a direct correlation between our customer’s growth and ours.”

Is Goleta a Hotbed for Hotels?

Goleta RenderingLOS ANGELES—R.D. Olson Development has partnered with Joseph Martelli Real Estate Investments has broken ground on a Residence Inn by Marriott Goleta. The developers are partnering with R.D. Olson sister company R.D. Olson Construction to build the 118-room hotel. Located near Santa Barbara in Silicon Beach South, Goleta has a robust business sector, driven by engineering, software and aerospace industries, according to the developer, making it a perfect site for a hotel development.

“Goleta is a hot bed for engineering, software and aerospace firms due to its quality of life, strategic central coast location adjacent to Santa Barbara, and close proximity to Vandenberg Air Force Base where we will see more private launches take place in the future,” Bob Olson, CEO and founder of R.D. Olson Development, tells “In addition, the University of California Santa Barbara campus located nearby continues to attract world class students and professors and we feel it will continue to be a major driver for visitation to the area. We look to meet the strongest need in market with our new developments and felt upscale extended stay was the gap here.”

The three-story property sits on 3.8 acres on Robin Hill Road and South La Patera Lane in Goleta, and is 80,000 square feet. It features studio, one- and two-bedroom suites, some with full kitchens. This room mix will allow both short-term leisure guests and business travelers to utilize the property. Additionally, there will be 1,300 square feet of meeting space and an outdoor pool and spa, landscaped patio with a fire pit, large fitness center with CrossFit style equipment, a business center and a guest laundry.

The extended-stay property will target both business and leisure travelers in the market. “We have tried to perfect a timeless design for this hotel that pays homage to the rich culture and history of the area and we have incorporated a meditation and display garden to pay respect to the original inhabitants of this land the Chumash Indian Tribe,” adds Olson. “We want this hotel to age with grace and be a relevant and functional property 50 years from now.  This hotel will also have great amenities including a resort style backyard pool and spa, putting green, and a giant chessboard in the lawn for anyone to enjoy.”

R.D. Olson has broken ground on the project and aims to deliver it to the market in late 2017. This is a long-term investment for the firm. “We built it with the expectation that we will own it forever,” says Olson. “We spent a lot of time in the details trying to get everything just right and we are excited to see the community and visitors experience the hotel. One of the payoffs for all of the hard work getting a hotel developed is seeing customers use it. We can’t wait to open this beautiful hotel in the second half of 2017.”

R.D. Olson moves up another spot to #11 on the OCBJ Top Commercial Construction Companies List

OCBJ Top Commercial R.D. Olson Construction inches their way up another spot this year to #11 on the Orange County Top Commercial Construction Companies list, but we definitely have the #1 team! We are thoroughly excited that our company continues to grow and look forward to another year of success.


Pasea Hotel & Spa Project Named as One of the “Best New Coastal Hotels”


R.D. Olson Once Again on the Top 400 US Contractors List

ENR 2016 Irvine, CA – Thanks to our staff's continued dedication to excellence, we were able to get on the ENR (Engineering News-Record) Top 400 Contractors List in the United States. This award is a great measure of the success R.D. Olson has seen in the last few years and exemplifies the organization’s continuous pursuit of top notch service and quality projects in the hospitality, restaurant, multi-family, retail and entertainment sectors. We charted at #302 up from last year's #374 position and we know 2017 can only bring bigger and greater success. You can view the complete list of contractors here.

Bicycle Casino Highlighted in Lodging Magazine

4.4.16 Lodging Magazine Spread Our recently completed Bicycle Casino Hotel was given a full spread with full project details in the April 2016 issue of Lodging Magazine. A great way to commemorate such a grand project that R.D. Olson Construction is so proud of.

Sense of Place Hugely Important for Hotels

IRVINE, CA—Three current and upcoming R.D. Olson Orange County hotel projects—the Irvine Spectrum Marriott (which recently broke ground), the nearly complete Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach and the approved Lido House Hotel in Newport Beach, which will begin construction in Q1—are very different, but each will be successful because they reflect the regions they serve and provide something those markets are lacking, company executives tell We spoke exclusively with Bob Olson, founder and CEO of R.D. Olson Development, and Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction, to get their take on the projects, how they are alike and how they differ, as well as their thoughts on how the hotel industry is changing.
CEO of R.D. Olson, Bob Olson and President of R.D. Olson Construction, Bill Wilhelm.
CEO of R.D. Olson, Bob Olson and President of R.D. Olson Construction, Bill Wilhelm. How are these three current and upcoming hotel projects integral parts of three evolving areas in Orange County?

Olson: Each of these hotels is unique to what the market demand is. Our focus isn’t to bring a pre-set idea to a market, but to bring what the market is lacking. For example, in Huntington Beach, there was no truly lifestyle hotel that actually had the ability to hold large weddings, meetings and outdoor events in an oceanfront setting. That’s a category we felt was lacking, so that’s where Paséa Hotel & Spa comes in. We liked what Shorebreak has done, and it actually gave us some confidence that the demand was there, but the market needed much more meeting space and ocean views. Shorebreak was successful, but this piece was missing. For the Irvine Spectrum Marriott, we had developed a Courtyard there, and it was very well received by the business and leisure community, but what was missing was the full-service category—this market hasn’t had a new one in 10 years. We saw the demand for that through the hotel we have there. Marriott has recreated the Marriott brand—the mothership brand for Marriott—and they’ve made a big push to reinvent the brand to today’s travelers. We are the first rebuild of this new brand. It incorporates new rooms with wood flooring (no carpet), open closets, everything that appeals to today’s traveler. Marriott is the best in the business when it comes to understanding today’s travelers and keeping up with their demands. They have great research teams for every brand. We’re the first new build of that new brand, and combined with the shortage of full-service hotels in the market and what we knew from Courtyard, it gave the market what it was missing.

In Newport Beach, no new hotel had been built in 50 years. What we felt was missing there was a destination brand hotel where people go to really experience Newport Beach, what it has to offer, and to feel like they’re really in the fabric of Newport Beach. Many people think of Newport Beach as Fashion Island, but the reason people came was right here, on the peninsula—Lido Village and out to the Balboa Pavilion. People took the Red Car Trolley down from L.A., and the Pavilion was built in 1906. There really had been nothing to accommodate guests of a high quality in this area. We felt this was a great opportunity to do a destination brand that brought Newport Beach to Newport Beach, if you will. This hotel will celebrate its history, but also today’s fabric of Newport Beach, which makes up everybody from the surf crowd to the yachting group and even skateboarding. There’s a tremendous eclectic mix of so many culture, and this is a great way to bring that together.

Wilhelm: Each of these hotels is in a very unique community that is thriving and working together to enhance the community experience. The Irvine Spectrum area has developed and will continue to develop a great community—a live/work/all-around experience. You’ve now got a full-service hotel that will really enhance the experience of holding the community together: you’ve got the live/work aspect and part of the white-collar experience of Irvine Spectrum; the tech industry is also starting to expand its horizons in that area. I believe that having a full-service hotel brings things to full circle there and takes the game up a notch or two. With the Paséa Hotel—Huntington Beach has always been a very cool surf city. Over the last several years, it has grown a number of residential single-family communities and condos in the area. The city has always done a great job at trying to enhance the experience in Surf City—people use dot go there to surf, play volleyball and grab a burger. Today, there are hotels and condos and also a great retail experience with Pacific City. Paséa will be one of the top-rated hotels in Southern California, and there are a Hyatt and a Hilton next door to each other, which is enhancing the hospitality experience. The Paséa is looking to capture individuals who want to stay a number of nights.

As for Lido Village, the peninsula is a great place to hang out, but it has struggled with having a new identity. It had been kind of a sleepy town, but there have recently been some very impressive movements form the development side. They’re expanding and bringing to the forefront what Newport Beach is all about. There are lots of areas like Newport Coast that have been experiencing liveliness, but the peninsula has lagged. Lido Village will really help; it’s the gateway to the peninsula, and Lido House will really help launch that gateway. It’s a beach community property where you’ll know you’re in Newport Beach because the designers are focused on making the community a part of the design. They have really pulled the community into the project. Read the entire story at Globe

Tracking the Rise of Microhotels

Cromwell HeadshotR.D. Olson Construction’s Tim Cromwell shares insights on the hospitality industry’s latest opportunity to appeal the Millennials - the microhotel - in this exclusive with

Irvine, CA—The hospitality industry has recognized an opportunity to appeal to Millennials and go further with the existing trends of improved hotel amenities without raising rates by simplifying individual guestrooms, R.D. Olson’s EVP Tim Cromwell tells Some are calling this new combination of small rooms and lively common areas “the microhotel.” We sat down for an exclusive interview with Cromwell about the microhotel trend, which brands are adopting it and where it could lead. What makes the “microhotel” attractive to Millennials?

Cromwell: Hotel brands and developers are trading spacious or luxurious guestrooms for common areas that foster community. With an emphasis on vibrant communal space, style and economic value, microhotels appeal to today’s social traveler. Millennial-friendly amenities include large common areas, free WiFi, breakfast, and smaller guestrooms to encourage socializing and use of the property’s common areas. What hotel brands are jumping on board?

Cromwell: Some of the most fascinating and dramatic applications of the microhotel concept can be seen at properties that are looking to capture the more budget-conscious Millennial. For example, Pacifica Hotels is targeting the Millennial subset at the Wayfarer in Santa Barbara, CA, where guests can choose between private hotel rooms or dorm-style hostel rooms. In addition to the heated pool, community kitchen and “playful” decor, the hotel/hostel advertises the lively activity of Santa Barbara’s nearby State Street as an amenity in itself. Pacifica Hotels has similar plans for converting the historic Ritz-Milner Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles to another Wayfarer property in 2016.

Additionally, Marriott’s Moxy brand couples 183-square-foot standard rooms with amenities targeted at urban travelers such as full bars and grab-and-go food offerings. In the same vein, Hilton’s Tru brand plans to offset compact 230-square-foot king rooms with 2,770 square feet of varied amenity space to offer travelers a range of areas to relax and socialize. Will this trend continue for new hotel developments in the future?

Cromwell: Microhotels have been well received in urban areas and are expected to continue expansion into more suburban areas where travelers look for both great value and smart design. It will be interesting to watch how the hospitality industry evolves to further capitalize on the community-minded nature of the Millennial traveler in 2017 and beyond. For now, the name of the game is the exchange of larger, luxurious guestrooms for more highly amenitized common areas that foster community.

Reasons For Plateau on New Hotel Builds

Wilhelm headshotIRVINE, CA—Concern about oversaturation has arisen among hotel developers and lenders who see quite a bit of product in the pipeline, opening opportunities in renovation and repositioning of properties, R.D. Olson Construction’s president Bill Wilhelm tells The firm was recently selected by Disney Way Partners, L.P., as the general contractor for the new Country Inn & Suites ground-up hotel project in Anaheim. We spoke with Wilhelm about how hotel brands and developers choose fulfill their objectives in a particular market, as well as his expectations for hotel construction this year. How do hotel brands and developers fulfill their objectives in a particular market?

Wilhelm: That’s a question that’s not all that easy to answer. Geographics is playing a lot into what hotels are built and where, and also the number of equal-type hotels that might be located in a general area. Brands will be very careful not to oversaturate a local market based on what they have in the market. From a branding perspective, they understand what they have in that neighborhood. Brands do a really good job of gauging what the market conditions can withstand from a renovation or development perspective.

Developers are looking for dirt, knocking on doors and selling why that location makes sense. They’ve got relationships with different brands, and they understand what makes a location work in a specific area. Local geographics play a lot to the success of a hotel long term. They start to evaluate what kinds of rooms, what features and what the community is looking for in order to get the best return on their investment. That drives a lot of it—they’re not going to put in a full-service hotel in an area that doesn’t have opportunities to fill those rooms. You want to put a full-service hotel in a market that has corporate customers but can also fill rooms with weekend usage.

You also have different market levels—primary, secondary—and some markets in the last four to five years have been all over the place. As the hospitality industry starts to slow down, certain markets may become a little skittish, so what is going to drive those rooms? Local business segments such as tourism might be in secondary market that aren’t bad markets, but a turn of events means they might not fill up as well.

They also look at existing properties flying their flag that may be aging, so they ask franchisees to update the properties to make them current; they might not renew a franchise if they don’t update. That’s part of the brand side; the developer side is understanding a geographic market and where they resonate putting heads on beds. Read more here.

Hotels to Add 100,000 SF of Event Space to Market by 2017

Chavez2x2By Paul Hughes

...Construction on a “lifestyle” hotel under the Marriott name starts in Irvine in March with a fall 2017 opening planned, said Mike Chavez, senior project manager for R.D. Olson, which is developing the project.

It’s “right across the street from (the) Taco Bell” headquarters and just off the I-5 (Santa Ana) in the Irvine Spectrum area.

The hotel includes a 5,000-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into two meeting rooms if needed; a 6,800-square-foot lawn; and a 1,500-square-foot prefunction area that opens onto both of the larger spaces —similar to the Paséa setup.

Two other meeting spaces—a boardroom of about 500 square feet and a 2,000-square-foot room that can be split in half—bring the hotel’s total space to just less than 16,000 square feet.

Chavez pointed out an interesting lawn element “for guests to have fun with,” a nearly life-sized chessboard—it covers about 240 square feet—with pieces 3 to 4 feet high.

Guests Love Amenities: The Shift in Demand from Select-Service to Full-Service Hotels

The hospitality market has made a true comeback over the past several years as a result of the improving post-recession economy. Business trips are more common, and families and couples are once again traveling for pleasure. To keep up with the increased demand, the hospitality construction and development sectors have responded, adding various properties, many of which are select-service hotels in strategic locations. While this rapid growth has positioned the hospitality sector well, there are signs the market is imminently changing— and that the strategy behind hospitality construction and development must, and will, change with it. The improvements in the economy have driven increased demand for beds and amenities. That same economic upturn has also boosted land and construction prices, ultimately increasing the cost of hotel development. While there is stilldemand for additional hotel rooms in some markets, others are showing signs of saturation. Hospitality professionals will need to address both the increased cost of construction and market saturation – and provide a truly unique product — if they are to succeed and compete in the changing marketplace. 

- Bill Wilhelm, President - R.D. Olson Construction

Read the entire story on page 24 of this month's Western Real Estate Business.


The hotel boom of 2015

underconstruct - PaseaHigh occupancy rates, rising room rates, record hotel sales - the year had it all. 

We’re excited to be a part of the booming hotel industry in Orange County this year! According to a recent article in the Orange County Register, the OC experienced high occupancy rates, rising room rates, and an increase in new construction in 2015. Our Pasea Hotel & Spa project, slated to open in the spring of 2016, was featured in the piece, which highlighted the hotel’s unique customer experience and amenities, such as flip flops instead of slippers and 34,000 square feet of event space. Learn more about the region’s hotel boom here.

Built to Last

Joe_Mihaylo.jpgBy Laurie McLaughlin

As the economy strengthens, the building industry has regained momentum, and Joe Cervantes' Leadership has helped R.D. Olson Construction maintain a competitive advantage.

Read our Executive Vice President's entire corporate profile in his Alma Mater's magazine here.



Building a Legacy

Pasea captureR.D. Olson Construction Expands Its Reach and Positions Itself for Success - By Janice Hoppe

In its 36th year of providing excellence in general contracting and construction management, R.D. Olson Construction has a well-established reputation in the industry and is now focused on building its legacy for the future. "What have we focused on in the last couple of years?" President Bill Wilhelm asks. "Not letting our prior 35 years of success get in the way of the future and focusing on what kind of change we have to make to adapt to the change in the industry."

 Founded by Robert Olson in 1979, the Irvine, Calif.-based company established itself as a nationwide general contracting and construction management firm recognized for reliability and customer loyalty. The company is known for its hospitality construction expertise, as well as its growing presence in healthcare and multi-unit projects.

Sixty percent of R.D. Olson Construction's work focuses on the hospitality sector, including new development, renovation and repositioning, spas, country clubs and restaurants. About 30 percent of its work includes multi-unit projects that include timeshares, assisted living, student housing, and for-rent and sale properties. The balance of its work includes private education, healthcare and entertainment facilities.

"we are focused on increasing our revenue stream in areas outside of hospitality, though that is our bread and butter," Wilhelm explains. "We have an impressive reputation for being a hospitality builder, but we are a company that is focused on the future, our legacy and sustainability. You have to look outside the environment you have played in  for some time and work on segmentation rebalancing."

Multigenerational Workforce  The entrepreneurial spirit of the company translates into making a difference in the client's experience, enhancing relationships with subcontractors and the design team in an effort to "hit the grand slam" for a project's success, Wilhelm explains. "We are very impressed and proud of our people," he adds. "They have come forward with accepting the necessary change, as we focus on the future."

Finding associates is one of the biggest challenges facing the company - and the industry as a whole - because of the decline in younger generations entering the construction industry. "It's an industry that has been depleted; the construction industry was hit pretty hard (during the recession)," Wilhelm notes.

However R.D. Olson is beginning to see a new injection of individuals into the industry and prides itself on the multigenerational workforce it has created. "How do you bring different generation together to feed off what each other has to offer?" Wilhelm asks. "The seasoned associates may not be as tech savvy, but the younger generations, that's what they do - they live and die by technology. The younger associates are teaching the seasoned associates how to capitalize on technology that's available and the seasoned individuals are opening the door and educating the younger generations on what being a builder is all about."

Developing a multigenerational culture is part of what sets R.D. Olson apart from the competition and is its greater goal of building a legacy for the future. Although implementing state-of-the-art technology and new systems regularly attracts the younger generations to R.D. Olson, it has also become an industry standard. So to go above and beyond that, the company is focusing on building a strong community connection that younger generations crave. "We create a lot of opportunities for our associates to do things together within and outside the company to create experiences for individuals to be part of something bigger," he explains.  

To see the rest of this story click here

Chapman University Gallery in R.D. Olson’s Curriculum

CONSTRUCTION: Builder looks to downshift on hotel work

by Paul Hughes

R.D. Olson Construction is rejiggering its outlook as it renovates an Old Town Orange building into an art museum for Chapman University.

The job is one example of moves by the Irvine-based builder—known mainly for hotel construction—to get ahead of an expected drop in that market.

“We’re in the process of diversifying,” said Olson Construction President Bill Wilhelm. “We’re getting involved in education again to take our company forward.”

The renovation will turn the space into a temporary home for the Hilbert Museum of California Art. The museum’s collection of 246 paintings of California scenes were donated to the school last year by real estate developer Mark Hilbert and his wife, Janet, of Newport Beach.

Chapman estimated the gift’s total value at $10 million, including $3 million to establish a home for the museum, which eventually will take permanent residence at a former fruit packing house near Chapman’s film school.

“We’ll have a hundred paintings in the initial show, and subsequent exhibits will draw from the collection,” Hilbert said.

Olson Construction is only signed to renovate the temporary space.

The job is an early move in what Wilhelm said is a planned pivot toward more education projects.

The company plans to cut its hospitality building from about 60% of its work to about 45%. The rest will be spread over multiunit residential—including student housing and timeshares—with a smattering of healthcare and other work, he said.

Growth Market

The builder is shifting gears at what appears to be an opportune moment.

Wilhelm said the hotel industry is near the top of its market cycle. And education is on an upswing, thanks to a mix of public funding and private fundraising.

“New builds will slow down in hospitality,” he said, but “any campus, public or private, is bursting at the seams.”

Some local examples:

• The district board of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa last week approved $450 million worth of renovations and additions to its campus funded by Measure M money to include dorms, a swimming pool, and buildings for a half-dozen academic areas over 10 years.

• University of California-Irvine has about $119 million in new construction and renovation projects approved for next year after about $118 million that was on tap for 2015.

• Some 81,000 square feet of construction under a previously completed master plan at Concordia University in Irvine are wending their way through specific city approvals.

Concordia Provost Mary Scott said, “We’re waiting for the [environmental impact report],” which is expected in the spring.

Most buildings are planned to be completed within 10 years, she said. The first is a music and worship center.

“The project is on schedule” for what the school hopes will be a late-2016 start, and the estimated costs for the first phase of Concordia’s project is about $26.5 million, according to Scott.

A dozen companies—a list that will be whittled down to six finalists, she said—have so far responded to the university’s request for qualifications.

Wilhelm said Olson Construction expects to get on the list for the Concordia work.

Old Friends

The $3 million job for Chapman is significantly smaller than Olson Construction’s typical contracts.

A 200-room hotel, for example, runs about $50 million to build, industry estimates show.

Olson’s local operations had 2014 revenue of $145 million, good for No. 12 on the Business Journal’s most recent list of commercial construction companies.

The company isn’t entirely new to Chapman’s campus.

It renovated Chapman’s Partridge Dance Center, which is next door to the new museum, in 2002, according to Kris Eric Olsen, Chapman’s vice president of campus planning and operations. He worked for R.D. Olson Development, a sister company to the construction firm, before joining Chapman.

“Partridge had a significant role in our decision” to hire Olson, he said.

Olsen said Chapman opts for builders “with direct experience” in the type of project it needs.

Chapman chose McCarthy Buildings Cos. in Newport Beach on that basis for the $78 million Marybelle Sebastian P. Musco Center for the Arts, which is due to open in March.

The school has a 140,000-square-foot science center out to bid.

It’s also “looking at new student housing,” Olsen said.

Colleges Need Buildings for Competitive Advantage

Wilhelm headshotORANGE, CA—Strong real estate assets can help universities jockey for high ratings in an industry that competes for the best students, professors and programs that higher education can offer, R.D. Olson Construction’s president Bill Wilhelm tells As we recently reported, the firm is building the Hilbert Museum of California Art, a new museum at Chapman University here, including the construction of the university’s new Musco Center for the Arts. We spoke exclusively with Wilhelm about the project and trends in academic development. What changes are you noticing in academic development?

Wilhelm: Universities have definitely been ramping up for an increased enrollment degree that they’ve been challenged with the last few years. Enrollment is up across the board, from private colleges to public universities, even though people have been through tough times—they realize that higher education is important. Everyone is looking for ways to adopt and extend education. We look at job candidates all day long, and we are focusing individuals who are bringing a higher level to the table as an offering of their overall portfolio. People are looking at the future of companies, sustainability and legacies.

In the educational world, a lot of schools are putting together a 10-year program, a master plan, with their needs and the items they’re trying to capture. Some California universities have a 42,000-student enrollment but can only house 3,500 students. So, they’re looking to expand their amenities: science buildings and lecture halls, labs, etc. They’re looking for student housing as well as on-campus hospitality for visiting parents and professors.

Regardless of the university, every campus within Southern California has the same problem on the housing side, and on the academic side, schools have to provide the competitive advantage as well. They’re all jockeying for rating in an industry as the best pharmacy or law school. They’re racing to bring on top-notch professors, and they’re realizing they haven’t done much from a development perspective as they needed to do. There’s a competition to pull in the best and brightest students and professors—even Nobel Peace Prize-winning professors to provide that department recognition and to truly create that brand. How are academic buildings becoming more cutting edge and less institutional?

Wilhelm: In the last 15 years, they haven’t chased this as much as they should have, but they’ve shifted focus; now they’re fully engaged in catching that. Regardless of the industry, we study multigenerational aspects quite a bit, and Gen Z has hit the media. It all comes back to what their needs are, but there’s this lifestyle, this expectation of what we have to adapt to the needs of the future.

Universities are getting away from the institutional look; they’re creating a very free-flowing-lifestyle environment. They’re trying to design as best they can into the local geographic element. For example, Chapman is a phenomenal campus, and it has the old city of Orange charm. Every university is doing a great job in partnering with local communities and creating this lifestyle, open-format, technologically advanced environment that has a feel of where we’re all going. Universities are creating this true open concept, this “bring the family on in” feel. For this generation of students, this is what they’re looking for. You see it in the multifamily and hospitality industries, and it’s the same in academics. Who is our end user? What are their needs and expectations? We’re no longer doing things because of the industry, but because of this expectation from the users.

More of this story here.

Residence Inn Wailea – “Maui, A Very Robust Year”

Building Industry Hawaii"R.D. Olson Construction, Marriott's California contractor, reports that 'the new hotel will be located on a 6.37-acre land parcel and will be among the first new build Residence Inn Generation 9 properties in existence.' The project broke ground in July 2014 and is scheduled to finish in May 2016...

Loosely translated, wailea means 'water play' it's only fitting that the Marriott Wailea Residence Inn incorporates water as a distinguishing feature in their design and operation. Along with a 'resort-style pool and spa' Marriott's new 200-room, four-story Wailea hotel will feature a fitness center, an outdoor sports court, a market and 1,800 square feet of meeting space."

Neighborhood Inspires Hotel Design

SpringHill_ExteriorLos Angeles, CA—Hotel developers are beginning to look to the location and community for design inspiration. The recently opened Marriott SpringHill Suites in Burbank is the perfect example. Developed by R.D. Olson Development and built R.D. Olson Construction, the hotel design and amenities are informed by Burbank’s rich entertainment history—and in some cases, atypical for the hotel brand. Infusing pieces of the community into the hotel helps attract guests and locals alike. To find out more about this trend and how the team approached the design of this property, we sat down with R.D. Olson Development VP of asset management Jonathon Vopinek, R.D. Olson Construction president Bill Wilhelm and R.D. Olson’s VP of interior design Sue Ellen Langford. What are hotel guests looking for in their common amenities that guests weren’t demanding 5 years ago?

Bill Wilhelm: Guests are looking for a variety of things from each property that they encounter. Specifically, flexibility, experience, visibility and communal openness are traits that speak to hotel guests today. All of these qualities tie into the end-users’ desire to have the property serve them in all aspects of their lifestyles.

Jonathon Vopinek: Five years ago, streaming a Netflix account through a hotel television wouldn’t have crossed anyone’s mind. Now, it is something that will become an industry standard in the near future. We are proud to offer this type of service in the SpringHill Suites, as we believe it is important to keep up on the latest technology and deliver it to our guests.

Lobbies with creative spaces are becoming more and more popular. People want to gather in hotels’ common areas, instead of just coming down to the lobby to get a cup of coffee and then heading back up to their rooms. Additionally, incorporating local art into the interior design of a hotel has become popular. Over the last few years people have made an effort to support local businesses, so to see a hotel doing the same creates a genuine experience for the guests. How did the surrounding market affect the design of the property?

Wilhelm: Because the property is located in Burbank, the design explored the filming industry. As a result of the revitalization and stimulation that has taken place in the area, the hotel needed to have a fresh, hip approach that would speak to millennials.”

Vopinek: In the 1920s, the motion picture business moved to Burbank, and today Burbank is home to hundreds of media and entertainment companies. The interior of the hotel pays homage to the entertainment and media industries that have shaped the city. The bar and lobby areas honor classic Hollywood icons, and are complete with images of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Bob Hope. Today, approximately 100,000 people work in Burbank every day. It is a business destination as well as a tourist destination. We needed a design that would attract the business traveler, so we went for a classic, clean, and modern approach with a public area that is spacious, eye catching, and inviting.  For the tourists and families visiting the area, we incorporated a fun outdoor space into our design, complete with a pool, outdoor BBQs, and an extra-large outdoor chess set.” – Jonathon Vopinek, vice president, asset management, R.D. Olson Development What was your inspiration for the design of the hotel?

Sue Ellen Langford: The interior design conveys a media centric concept that has a custom boutique feeling that taps into the nostalgic glamorous lifestyle of the TV and Movie insiders, while maintaining the reliability of a Marriott select service brand. The simple elegance of the finishes within a fresh contemporary context creates a perceived elevated value that still feels comfortable and approachable.

How Amenities Expectations are Changing Development

Wilhelm Headshot 2Bill Wilhelm was recently interviewed by Globe St. on his views on how amenities are playing a role in construction and development.

IRVINE, CA—Developers must approach each property creatively to generate the best customer experience, including combining property types or offering unexpected amenities, R.D. Olson Construction’s president Bill Wilhelm tells We sat down with Wilhelm for an exclusive interview about how user expectations about amenities are shifting planners’ and developers’ approach to their properties. There is a growing expectation for amenities that were traditionally only accessible at certain property types to be “always available” to tenants wherever they go. How do you see this trend playing out in the market?

Wilhelm: Today’s customers expect more out of their properties than in the past. They want to combine where they live, work and play, accessing all their “lifestyle options,” whether they are at home, at the office, on vacation or at the mall. Developers must now take a step back and look to define user demographics and their specific needs before deciding what to develop in a certain market and, more specifically, at a given site. In the California market, land availability is becoming scarce, requiring developers to approach each property creatively to generate the best customer experience. Developers can achieve this goal by “combining” property types or offering unexpected amenities in a more traditional setting. Your current work at SmartStop’s Ladera Sports Center—which combines storage and recreation—demonstrates the fusing of property types to meet the growing pressures to provide more. How is this shift creating opportunities for developers?

Wilhelm: Ladera Sports Center is a great example of what is transpiring in many communities in California. One of our clients, Lutzky Associates Development, identified a need for both storage and sports facilities in the Ladera Ranch community for its client SmartStop and engaged us to construct a space that would meet those needs. The project that is currently underway combines storage facilities, an athletic complex and a new corporate office for SmartStop, making the most of the property and meeting the needs of this geographic area.

Across geographies, Master planners are looking for ways to combine property types or introduce new amenities to make the property “work harder” for its end users. For example, the Irvine Spectrum area has introduced medical-office buildings and senior-living options to complement the area’s existing office and retail offerings. By introducing these types of properties into amenity-rich properties, it creates convenience for all end users. Now, they can visit their doctor, run a few errands and see a movie all in one trip. These choices are not accidental. The value of a given property is greatly affected by its direct adjacencies, and developers and master planners are looking for ways to make all of their investments more valuable, all while creating a better experience for the end user. What are the construction considerations for this shift?

Wilhelm: For the Ladera Sports Center project, our goal was to combine three types of user needs—storage, recreation and office—and that end goal directed our construction efforts. High-end property types, such as recreation facilities and offices, require different construction than industrial properties, such as storage units. In a project that combines these property types, it is important to fully understand the developer’s vision and the users’ needs to create a cohesive look and feel through the interior and exterior skins, while mitigating costs. In cases where multiple property types are combined, it is imperative for a general contractor to be involved early in the process to contribute solutions that maximize property value and customer satisfaction, while maintaining the designers’ and developers’ original intent for the project. What does the future look like for this “providing more” trend?

Wilhelm: We will see an increased demand for multi-use property types, from both a convenience and a community standpoint. In efforts to grow communities, particularly in areas like Southern California, multi-purpose properties will serve specific neighborhood needs and increase engagement. With the cost of land and construction rising, developers need to be as creative as possible in their property development and planning to reach a wider range of users.


R.D. Olson Construction Cracks the Top 400 List

top-contractorsIrvine, CA - Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all the R.D. Olson Construction team, we were able to get on the ENR (Engineering News-Record) Top 400 Contractors List in the United States. This award is a great measure of the success R.D. Olson has seen in the last few years and exemplifies the organization's continuous pursuit of excellence and top notch service to the hospitality, restaurant, multi-family, and entertainment sectors. We debut on the chart at #374 but with steadfast dedication, R.D. Olson hopes to continue to climb the charts in 2016.
You can view the complete list of contractors here.

R.D. Olson Construction Among the Top Commercial Construction Companies in Orange County

List-2015-OC_Commercial-Construction-Cos-1R.D. Olson was just announced among the Top Commercial Construction Companies in Orange County, CA. Up one spot from last year's #13, R.D. Olson is proud of its projects in the last year. Amazing completions of the Courtyard San Jose, Courtyard Irvine Spectrum, Hotel Marina Del Rey, 27 Seventy Five Apartments and Catherine's Terrace at the Descanso Beach Club, just to name a few, have helped propel R.D. Olson one step closer to becoming one of the largest general contractor firms in Southern California. With new incredible projects in the works now, 2016 should be an even greater success.

Strathmore (Studio 11024) Project Highlighted in the UCLA Daily Bruin


The green and white metal building on Strathmore Avenue, surrounded by drought-resistant plants, stands out from other North Village apartments in the area.

Architects for these new apartments said they aimed to add to the variety of buildings in the North Village by using glass to make rooms look bigger and to make them more modern.

Students can now lease apartments at Studio 11024, Ophir Terrace and the new university apartment building on Glenrock Avenue.

Some students said they think the new buildings will be more comfortable than older ones, while others questioned their affordability and new design.

Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction, said the goal was to construct trendy and eco-friendly apartments in the new building, Studio 11024, which is located at 11024 Strathmore Drive.

Wilhelm said the company redesigned the building’s exterior as new materials were introduced. He said he thinks changing from plaster and bricks to metal and wood improves the structure’s ambience.

Studio 11024 is intended to be high-end, but the building was still designed with students in mind, Wilhelm added. Read more here.

R.D. Olson Completes Ground-Up Multi-family Project in Westwood, California

Studio 11024 - web"Studio 11024" to Serve the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Community

Westwood, CA - R.D. Olson Construction is announcing the completion of Studio 11024, a 31-unit, five-story, 42,690-square-foot multi-family property in Westwood, California. The Irvine, California-based general contractor was selected by Phoenix Property Company, a Texas-based real estate development and investment company. R.D. Olson broke ground on Studio 11024 in September 2013.

Located two blocks west of University of California Los Angeles’ (UCLA’s) campus and a few blocks north of Westwood Village, Studio 11024 was built to cater to students, faculty and the academic community. Set back from the sidewalk, the project provides an indoor/outdoor experience, open space for landscaping, and parking built underground to engage pedestrians at the street edge.

"Studio 11024’s site context opposite Richard Neutra’s historic landmark, Strathmore Apartments, had a major impact on the project," said Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction. "Our team was able to work with Lorcan O' Herlihy Architectsto successfully navigate the challenges of a 40-foot cross slope and building next to a historic landmark. To enhance the pedestrian experience, the building’s massing steps up from two-to five-stories creating a cohesive adjacency to the historic site."

Studio 11024’s exterior is marked by a fluted white metal skin with contemporary green accents, eco-friendly landscaping, and two, planted roof deck areas on the third and fifth floors. In addition to these urban garden settings, the building’s common area amenities include a fitness center with a yoga studio, a resident lounge, a business center, and secured, underground garage parking.

In addition to Studio 11024, R.D. Olson Construction is currently under construction on seven projects based in Los Angeles County including the Village at Calabasas in Calabasas; STK Restaurant at the W Los Angeles; the Hampton Inn & Suites in Glendale; Residence Inn by Marriott in Pasadena; SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Burbank; Califa Office Building in Van Nuys; and Bicycle Casino Hotel in Bell Gardens.

Surf’s up at R.D. Olson Camp

2014 Surf Camp Industry Attendees
Industry folks gathered to not only catch up but catch waves.

SAN ONOFRE, CA- R. D. Olson Construction hosts an annual Surf Camp each September to bring its team together with industry partners to enjoy a day of surfing and networking.

The beach party is a true "board meeting," complete with industry insiders and opportunities to show off wave-riding skills on the famous sets of San Onofre, or to learn new tips from professional surfing instructors.

This year more than 130 guests attended this networking event and beach party.  The day started with surfing and lessons, following by relaxing on the beach with shaved ice, live, Beach Boys-style music, refreshing drinks and a catered dinner.

The R.D. Olson Surf Camp provides an opportunity-and unconventional- venue to catch up with teammates and industry partners and to relax with friends and family.

Construction Begins on Hampton Inn

Glendale Hampton InnGlendale, CAR.D. Olson Construction has begun construction on Vista InvestmentsHampton Inn & Suites development in Downtown Glendale. Located at Colorado Street and Brand Blvd., the completed hotel will have 94 guestrooms. It is scheduled for completion in Spring 2016.

“The Hampton Inn & Suites Glendale project takes advantage of its environment to provide added value to the community at-large,” Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction, tells “Its location in the heart of Glendale provides the hotel the opportunity to be a part of the revitalization of the downtown area.”

The property is adjacent to the Americana at Brand, which recently underwent a renovation of its own to upgrade the top floor apartments into penthouse suites. The exterior of the 57, 327-square-foot property will be made of brick, stucco, metal and glass, which will align with the design of the neighboring properties.

Togawa Smith Martin also designed the interior of the hotel. “Through the orientation of the second floor pool and viewing deck, the mountain vistas have been factored into the overall design,” says Wilhelm. “The property’s L-shape, traditionally a difficult property type, also contributes to the project’s complexity. Our experience with carefully orchestrated urban infill projects is making it possible for us to build inches from surrounding properties without disrupting tenants’ daily activities.” The hotel will also include a two-level parking structure.”

The hotel sector has experienced a healthy turn lately with many developments underway. This includes R.D. Olson Development’s recent purchase of a 23,000-square-foot Hollywood land site to build a hotel. The site currently has a Jack-in-the-Box on the site with a five-year lease. R.D. Olson will use that time to obtain entitlements and building permits.

R.D. Olson Begins Construction on Hampton Inn Glendale

Glendale Hampton InnIrvine, Calif.—R.D. Olson Construction has begun construction on a five-story, 94-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel on the corner of Colorado Street and Brand Boulevard in Glendale, Calif. The Irvine, Calif.-based general contractor was selected by Vista Investments to construct the hotel, which is slated for a spring 2016 completion.

“The construction of the Hampton Inn & Suites will continue the growth of Glendale’s vibrant downtown area,” said Tommy Marcum, project executive at R.D. Olson Construction. “The project joins developments like the adjacent, mixed-use Americana at Brand in continuing to transform Glendale’s downtown into a dynamic, regional destination with an increasing draw.”

The Hampton Inn & Suites’ common amenities will include an elevated outdoor pool deck with mountain views, lounge seating with an outdoor fireplace, a fitness center, and a lobby with an inviting entrance for guests and visitors along Colorado Street. The 57,327-square-foot hotel will have two levels of parking.

The hotel’s design elements feature brick, stucco, metal, and glass, complementing the urban design of neighboring properties. Togawa Smith Martin will serve as the architectural firm for the project.

In addition to the Hampton Inn & Suites in Glendale, R.D. Olson Construction is currently under construction on eight Los Angeles-based projects including the Residence Inn by Marriott at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles; Residence Inn by Marriott in Pasadena; SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Burbank; Strathmore multi-family project in Westwood; Califa Office Building in Van Nuys; Bicycle Casino Hotel in Bell Gardens; The Village at Calabasas in Calabasas; and the renovation of the W Hotel in Los Angeles.

OC’s Most 100 Influential!

OC Most Influential

 Bob Headsahot OC Register







Age: 58

Job: President and founder of R.D. Olson Development in Irvine

Bio: Olson began working in construction at 8, pulling nails for his stepfather. By the time he finished high school, he was working two construction jobs. At 23, he took $35,000 in savings and founded R.D. Olson Construction. He earned an MBA at USC. In 1997, he founded R.D. Olson Development, which specializes in developing hotels, as well as office, retail, multifamily and recreational projects. Olson lives in Newport Beach.

Why he is influential: In 2014, R.D. Olson Construction broke ground on the first hotel in Old Town Pasadena in more than 15 years, the latest in a spate of new hotels for the company. The company has six projects underway in California, and the Olson name is on hotels near the 55 freeway in Tustin, on Pacific Coast Highway just south of Huntington Beach’s Main Street and in Burbank, among others. Since 2011, he has launched 15 hotels in California and Maui, ranging from 106 to 250 rooms. They include the Courtyard by Marriott at the Irvine Spectrum, the Pasea Hotel and Spa at Huntington Beach’s Pacific City, and a boutique hotel on the site of the former Newport Beach City Hall in Lido Village.

Biggest challenge: Empowering employees. “As entrepreneurs, we think we have our foot on the gas pedal when actually it’s on the brake.”

Work philosophy: “To always be respectful, to be fair, and to reward your people for individual and company successes.”

Thoughts on entrepreneurship: Always look at where the economy is going, not where it is or has been.

Inspiration: His wife and four children. “Being a dad and husband is the most rewarding experience I can think of.” 

Can’t do without: His iPhone camera. “I’m always taking photos for ideas for our hotels.”

What’s next: “Creating environments that connect people of all ages.”

Quote: “Orange County has such great opportunities with the climate and our beaches, our higher education resources, (and) smart land planning. … I am very bullish for the long-term commercial real estate here.”

More business influencers: Scott Samuelsen, Frank Talarico, Barry Arbuckle, Noel Massie, Teresa Mercado-Cota, Shaheen Sadeghi, Lucy Dunn, Ada Briceño, Tony Moiso, Bill Gross, Daniel Ivascyn, Andrea Young, Emile Haddad, Palmer Luckey, Donald Bren, David Pyott, Leonard Chan

View the full list: 100 people who influenced Orange County in 2014

R.D. Olson Construction Celebrating 35 Years!

11.10.14 OCBJ Supplement 35yrs-Cover Only

See full supplement:  11.10.14 OCBJ Supplement







Lanser: Construction Suffers Shortage of Workers (Maybe)

- Jonathan Lanser

The industry fears staffing shortages, but unions think it's all about pay cuts.11.2.14 OC Register Worker Shortage image

What exactly is a “shortage” of construction workers?

Is it as developers and contractors see it: the lack of qualified managers and craftsman to handle increasing demand for construction work?

Or is it how labor envisions it: shrinking numbers of workers willing to work for low wages with limited benefits?

Whether you’re deft with the economics or paperwork of the building business or skilled with its craftsmen’s tools, a healthy rebound in creating new real estate means you are in demand. And that shift has supposedly become a production headache for construction bosses.

Ponder the employment trends, as counted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
• Nationwide, construction bosses employed 6.08 million in September, up 3.9 percent in a year and the highest total since May 2009.
• In California, construction employment is back at 697,100, up 164,400, or 31 percent, from post-recession lows. Roughly 1 in every 10 California jobs created in the recovery is in construction.
• And in Orange County, construction payrolls ballooned by 21,000, to a six-year high of 86,700, thanks to a hiring pace that’s triple the growth rate for all local employers.

The hiring spree may have tapped out the supply of available construction talent, whether it be for front-office work or positions in the field, according to a new study from the Associated General Contractors of America trade group. This analysis says construction bosses are scrambling to keep operations fully staffed – here and nationwide.

It’s more than a minor annoyance, the AGCA study’s key survey shows, as 36 percent of California construction bosses say they have a “hard time” filling both professional jobs and craft positions. That’s slightly more challenging than the situation nationwide, where 29 percent of executives surveyed expressed staffing headaches.

“The shortage of qualified construction workers is a real problem for the industry, which has shown impressive signs of positive growth,” says Bill Wilhelm, president of Orange County-based R.D. Olson Construction, a builder with 12 Southern California hotel projects either finishing or starting in 2014.

“Due to the slowdown of the past, numerous workers either left the industry or left the state of California and have not returned,” Wilhelm said. “Add on top of this, the next generation of construction workers is not sufficient to take the handoff from those craftsmen who have entered or are entering retirement.”

Construction unions believe that in many ways employers are to blame for their labor mismatch. The clout of California’s construction unions has been shrinking for decades. In 1985, 59 percent of state construction workers were unionized. By 2013, it was 16 percent.

Union leaders say tactics that construction bosses use to cut labor expenses make the industry a less desirable career choice and limit skilled-worker availability. Construction is a tough career, as the opportunity to work is volatile, with industrywide unemployment averaging 20 percent during the past four decades.

A study of California’s construction labor market by the Economic Roundtable, funded by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, details a continuing move away from what they dubbed “formal” building work to what they consider traditional employer-employee relationships.

A growing number of California builders – notably homebuilders – use independent companies to staff job sites. Those subcontractors employ – properly and not – growing ranks of “independent contractors.” Those independent workers typically don’t get many of the benefits and legal protections associated with regular jobs, with employer compensation savings running as high as 30 percent.

The union study claims there’s an even larger workplace – not so secret but often off the books – where salaries can be as little as half of the norm. The average California veteran construction worker had a $32,800 salary in 2012, the study said.

Roughly 140,000 California construction workers are in these so-called informal positions –roughly 1 in 6 of all construction staff members, according to the union study. These workers are either improperly categorized as independent contractors or in under-the-table payment situations.

By the union’s math, “informal” workers earned $1.2 billion less in compensation in 2011 vs. what they would have gotten in “formal” workplace arrangements. And it’s not simply salary. Missing dollars also would have helped fund several state worker-protection programs.

To union officials, simply meeting labor-law requirements could improve worker supply.
“There’s no real worker shortage,” says David Kersh, executive director of the Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee.


Where are the new construction workers coming from?

Consider Danny Dean. Two years ago, he was new to California, fresh out of the military and looking for work. Construction was in his blood; his dad was in the electrical trades back in New Jersey.

Dean started doing carpentry for a homebuilders’ subcontractor. After a year, he switched to the union side of the equation, as an apprentice carpenter working commercial construction. One of his first unionized jobs was helping build an office tower at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

Dean, 24, who lives in Lake Forest, has enthusiastically embraced a noteworthy job-enhancement program by his union: skills training done though local community colleges at union-funded sites. Dean last week was training at a new, 107,000-square-foot facility off the I-5 in Buena Park.

“It’s crazy what I learn here,” says Dean, taking his fourth weeklong training session in a year. “I can actually take this stuff and put (it) in place back at work.”

This training is part of a union program, largely funded by a slice of the compensation paid by contractors, that brings novices up to journeyman status, and keeps veteran workers up-to-date with the latest skills, tools, materials, safety practices and regulations required for today's construction projects.

The schooling facility, one of nine in Southern California for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, offers both classrooms and an indoor construction site for realistic hands-on lessons in outdoor structures, highways and office-space work.

“We want them to see there’s a career here,” says Thomas Rooney, coordinator for the union’s Southwest Carpenters Training Fund.

Union officials know that in today’s cost-conscious and extra-competitive world, their worker members have to justify the higher salaries – and benefits – they get. The contractors who hire union workers often battle for big-dollar contracts for major real estate or municipal projects. Profiting from that huge-scale work can hinge on worker skills.

A typical apprentice in the program takes a week off from work roughly once a quarter for four years to reach the coveted journeyman’s status. The syllabus exposes workers to a wide range of skills and construction techniques within their own slice of the trade, loosely delineated by indoor or outdoor work.

Despite the overall construction rebound, enrollments in the carpenter training program across six Western states is about 6,000 versus up to 14,000 during the real estate boom.
“That it hasn’t increased more surprises me,” says the carpenters union’s Rooney.


Project manager positions were the toughest construction office jobs to fill in California – 61 percent of bosses surveyed put it atop the list, the contractor survey shows. Next were engineers and estimating professionals, both problematic, at 41 percent of the shops polled.

Out in the field, iron workers and plumbers were California’s hardest to fill – cited by two-thirds of employers. Carpenters were next toughest, with 59 percent of state employers saying they have trouble finding adequate labor.

Construction bosses say they using extra subcontractors and staffing companies to fill worker gaps. And 27 percent of California bosses said they were turning to unions for help in finding workers versus 9 percent nationally.

Other labor-boosting strategies include moving work away from the job site, the contractor survey shows. Thirty-five percent of California bosses choose prefabricated parts to help with the labor shortage (versus just 13 percent nationwide.)

This imbalance should add up to a seller’s, i.e. worker’s, market, with “prices” (wages) rising accordingly. Curiously, the survey showed compensation seems to be on the rise more away from California –as well as noticeably more for front-office staffs.

In California, 55 percent of construction bosses said they hiked pay for professional staffs; 26 percent upped benefits, and 21 percent boosted bonuses. This pretty much matches the national trend.

At the job site, though, pay is up at only 24 percent of California employers (vs. 59 percent nationally); benefits and/or bonuses are up at 14 percent of firms. Overtime pay rose at 10 percent of the employers (vs. 18 percent nationally.)

No executives surveyed by the contractors in the state saw the situation getting better any time soon. Thirty-three percent of bosses think it’ll become harder to get skilled craftsmen; 45 percent think challenging hiring conditions will continue.

“The shortage of construction workers has begun to push construction costs upward,” says Olson Construction’s Wilhelm, who adds that extra labor costs come on top of a 3 percent jump in the price of construction materials.

It could be worse, I guess. Think of the trucking trade, facing its own staffing shortages – as much as 40,000 drivers short today.

That gap has the potential to grow fivefold by the next decade.

Seems some truckers are being drawn to the reviving construction industry. For many, swinging a hammer close to home beats hours alone on the road.

Bob Olson Profiled in OC Metro’s Hot 25 List!

– Greg Hardesty

BOB OLSONOC Metro Hot 25 10.30.14
CEO and Founder
R.D. Olson Construction

Bob Olson was 9 years old when he started pulling nails out of two-by-fours.

At 58, the Newport Beach resident has definitely progressed in his 35-year construction career.

The CEO and founder of R.D. Olson Construction in Irvine is, along with partner Pacific Hospitality Group, in the midst of perhaps his splashiest project yet: The Pasea Hotel & Spa, a 250-room, eight-story resort (a rooftop bar is just part of the fun) near the Huntington Beach Pier. It’s set to open in spring 2016.

“We’re definitely pushing the envelope compared to what we’ve developed in the past,” says Olson, who once built a restaurant for Sonny Bono in Hollywood in the ’80s and became good friends with the former singer and congressman. “It’s a hotel that Orange County has never seen before.”

That’s a bold statement, but Olson has made a career out of thinking big and outside the box. His company weathered the recent recession in grand style, completing nearly a dozen hotels in 2012-13. R.D. Olson recently opened the 210-room Courtyard Laguna Hills Hotel near the Irvine Spectrum – featuring a new high-tech lobby and stylish bistro, and a 75-foot lap pool – and this year broke ground on a six-story, 221-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel near Disneyland. The general contractor is also planning a couple of hotels in Silicon Valley and another in the Waimea Valley, on the North Shore of Oahu.Flash

Olson credits his involvement with the Young Presidents’ Organization, in which business leaders get together to schmooze, for giving him a “great perspective”on how to run a business. He also keeps his success in perspective by maintaining a balanced family life. One of Olson’s two older children, Melissa, 31, is a sales and marketing executive for Marriott. Older son Bobby, 34, is a real estate lawyer. Olson and his wife, Christyne, have a 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and an 8-year-old son, Sutton, who’s probably already well into pulling nails out of two-by-fours.

R.D. Olson Construction Commences Residence Inn by Marriott in Pasadena, Calif.

144-Room Hotel is First Ground-Up Hotel Project in Old Town Pasadena in 15 Years

Pasadena, CA - October 9, 2014 - R.D. Olson Construction has begun construction on a five-story, 144-room Residence Inn by Marriott extended stay hotel in Pasadena, California, the first hotel to be constructed in Old Town Pasadena in more than 15 years. The Irvine, California-based general contractor was selected by owner Fair Oaks Hotels, LLC to construct the $30.5 million 94,091 square-foot hotel which is slated for completion in fall 2015. R.D. Olson has been an active builder of hospitality properties over the past year, with more than six projects currently under construction in California.

The hotel’s guest amenities will include more than 1,000 square-feet of meeting space, an on-site market, elevated deck with a pool and spa, breakfast area, fire pit, exercise room and fully equipped business center. Awbrey Cook Rogers McGill Architects will serve as the architectural firm for the project with interior design by Seattle-based Degen & Degen. Design elements are a playful rendition of the arts and crafts heritage of Old Town Pasadena, blending iconic period gestures with modern detailing. Marriott’s latest Gen 9 Design will showcase contemporary furnishings within a traditional setting, incorporating natural materials such as brick, stone, hand glazed tile and dark wood.

“This construction project sits at the gateway to Old Town Pasadena and will take the lead in bringing more available rooms to this destination city,” said Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction. “It is exciting to contribute to an area like Old Town Pasadena that is so steeped in tradition.”

The hotel’s interior and exterior design will weave in subtle Mediterranean architecture and design through the use of parapet and tiled gable roofs, hipped-roof corner towers and plaster walls. Additionally, a variety of window openings are highlighted, including groupings of punched, multi-story windows which allow ample natural light into the building.

R. D. Olson most recently broke ground on the 250-room Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach, Calif., and the 221-room Courtyard by Marriott in Anaheim, Calif., and is in the process of a significant hotel conversion near Los Angeles International Airport. The firm also completed the 210-room Courtyard by Marriott Irvine Spectrum in June. Earlier this year, R.D. Olson Construction was honored with the Icon Award from Marriott’s Design and Construction division for excellence in construction.

About R.D. Olson Construction

Founded by Bob Olson in 1979, R.D. Olson Construction is one of the top 50 general contracting firms in California. R.D. Olson Construction is a premier builder in the hospitality industry for several national hoteliers, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, and Starwood. R.D. Olson Construction is also experienced in multi-family housing, entertainment, retail, restaurant and corporate facility projects.

R.D. Olson Construction Commences Residence Inn by Marriott in Pasadena

RI Pasadena 04-07-14 Marriot SEcropR.D. Olson Construction has begun construction on a five-story, 144-room Residence Inn by Marriott extended stay hotel in Pasadena, California, the first hotel to be constructed in Old Town Pasadena in more than 15 years. The Irvine, California-based general contractor was selected by owner Fair Oaks Hotels, LLC to construct the $30.5 million 94,091 square-foot hotel which is slated for completion in fall 2015. R.D. Olson has been an active builder of hospitality properties over the past year, with more than six projects currently under construction in California.

The hotel’s guest amenities will include more than 1,000 square-feet of meeting space, an on-site market, elevated deck with a pool and spa, breakfast area, fire pit, exercise room and fully equipped business center. Awbrey Cook Rogers McGill Architects will serve as the architectural firm for the project with interior design by Seattle-based Degen & Degen. Design elements are a playful rendition of the arts and crafts heritage of Old Town Pasadena, blending iconic period gestures with modern detailing. Marriott’s latest Gen 9 Design will showcase contemporary furnishings within a traditional setting, incorporating natural materials such as brick, stone, hand glazed tile and dark wood.

“This construction project sits at the gateway to Old Town Pasadena and will take the lead in bringing more available rooms to this destination city,” said Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction. “It is exciting to contribute to an area like Old Town Pasadena that is so steeped in tradition.”

The hotel’s interior and exterior design will weave in subtle Mediterranean architecture and design through the use of parapet and tiled gable roofs, hipped-roof corner towers and plaster walls. Additionally, a variety of window openings are highlighted, including groupings of punched, multi-story windows which allow ample natural light into the building.

R. D. Olson most recently broke ground on the 250-room Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach, Calif., and the 221-room Courtyard by Marriott in Anaheim, Calif., and is in the process of a significant hotel conversion near Los Angeles International Airport. The firm also completed the 210-room Courtyard by Marriott Irvine Spectrum in June. Earlier this year, R.D. Olson Construction was honored with the Icon Award from Marriott’s Design and Construction division for excellence in construction.

About R.D. Olson Construction

Founded by Bob Olson in 1979, R.D. Olson Construction is one of the top 50 general contracting firms in California. R.D. Olson Construction is a premier builder in the hospitality industry for several national hoteliers, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, and Starwood. R.D. Olson Construction is also experienced in multi-family housing, entertainment, retail, restaurant and corporate facility projects.

Big Demand for High-Style, High Function Amenities

By Bill Wilhelm

As the lines between leisure, homes and office spar blur, so too, do the amenities included at these properties.

The 468-unit 27 Seventy Five Apartments in Costa Mesa, Calif., recently underwent an extensive renovation by R.D. Olson. The property now includes a 14,000 SF community building with a rooftop lounge, game room, conference and business centers, fitness facilities and large room with a fireplace.

With the convergence of work and play prevalent in all sectors of the community and among all generations, it is now more important than ever that properties reflect that reality and serve customers’ desired amenities. Gone are the days when an apartment complex was just a place to call home. Today's multifamily communities must not only provide excellent housing options, but are also required to serve as entertainment facilities and offices. Even offices, which previously were just a hub for work, must now provide gyms, nearby shopping areas and other comforts to make it feel like a home away from home. As a result, it is imperative that property-owners and developers satisfy the next generation of residents and attract new customers, by incorporating high-style, high-function common amenities into their projects.

R.D. Olson Construction has seen a significant transformation in the desire and need for amenities that are not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing, across these sectors. In the past, apartment communities would be less concerned with providing outdoor entertainment areas, and more concerned with providing spacious units. The same theme is prevalent in the hospitality sector. Now, even in the select service arena, hotels want to provide creature comforts like in-room Netflix streaming and gourmet coffee stations to their guests.

An example of this type of transformation can be seen in 27 Seventy Five Apartments in Costa Mesa, Calif. This established apartment community had to transform to remain competitive in the marketplace and meet resident demand. A large community building was added that featured indoor-outdoor entertainment space, a grilling area, a screening room, and plentiful lounge seating.  This created the resort-style living well-suited to match residents' needs.

Communal space at 27 Seventy Five Apartments was recently renovated. This included upgrades to the eco-friendly landscaping, lighted sport courts, pool, and outdoors lounges and grills.

Multifamily housing is embracing this trend in other ways, too. Some communities have installed AmazonFresh lockers on their properties, allowing residents to have fresh produce, dairy and meat delivered directly to their doors at prearranged times. Other communities let residents control their units’ lighting, heating and cooling via smartphone. This essentially provides tenants with instant access to the heartbeat of their homes, even when they're away.

The Hacienda at seniors center Rancho Mission Viejo features a luxurious room with bar, yoga studio, fitness center, outdoor cabanas and bocce courts.

Contrary to popular thinking, this demand is not only prevalent in the Millennial generation, but among customers of all ages. Many master-planned communities that cater to the senior community are constructing new amenities as well. These include large pool areas with bars, barbecues and bocce courts, in addition to common clubhouses to host parties and events, in order to keep up with market demand. Beyond the capacity for entertainment, many communities are adding features like fitness centers and yoga rooms to also put health and wellness benefits at residents’ fingertips.

Households with residents aged 55 and older could reach as high as 46.6 percent of the U.S. population by 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).  Master-planned communities will look to offer amenities that support the niche interests of this demographic on-site, making them more attractive to this booming demographic.

As a result of the demand for upscale amenities, developers and property owners must choose the right team in order to create communities and properties that meet customers' needs. In order to do this, established properties must adapt, while new properties must be constructed with these needs in mind.  As the lines between sectors and property types continues to blur - with the office becoming a place for leisure and a retail center functioning as an off-site office - it is critical to understand how you can create and construct properties that effectively meet the needs of clients and customers.

OC Execs Talk First Jobs

Wilhelm Candid 1Labor Day has come and gone, which means we have start thinking about work again. We asked some OC real estate execs to tell us about their first-ever jobs. (Everyone remembers those jobs, usually more fondly than they deserve.)

R.D. Olson Construction prez Bill Wilhelm says that at 15, he convinced the local Taco Bell manager he was reliable, and she agreed to hide him in the back, frying taco and tostada shells for the first six months. Once he turned 16, he had the opportunity to work the cash register and manage the front line, prepping orders and getting them out to the customer. “After a year, I took over the assistant manger's duties and then quickly stepped into the role of manager,” he tells us. “I even hired my older sister, which resulted in a food fight, but mostly we worked really hard.”

Are Apt. Tenants Doubling Up Again?

By Carrie Rossenfeld

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ORANGE COUNTY, CA—We saw it during the recession out of sheer necessity, but industry experts say now we’re seeing it for a different reason: apartment dwellers doubling and tripling up within the same unit in Orange County. Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction, tells that during the downturn, the poor economy and suffering housing sector were to blame, but today it’s because rental rates are rising—particularly in the apartment communities with state-of-the-art common amenities—and tenants are willing to sacrifice some space and privacy in order to live affordably in these communities.

Breaking down the cost of living in a class-A apartment among two or three individuals allows them to live in a nicer property that goes for a higher per-month rental rate, says Wilhelm. “We’re also seeing it in student housing. Where we used to see two or three individuals in an apartment, we have a property that has four or even six beds in some rooms. They’re stacking beds to be able to fit more tenants.”

The solution works with newer, higher-quality properties, but some class-B landlords are finding that tenants still aren’t biting, says Wilhelm. “In some situations, landlords have not been able to get the rates they thought they were going to get. From a renovation/construction standpoint, we’ve seen a couple of projects where the developers were trying to raise rents by $500 to $1,000 a month and add amenities. But the older buildings aren’t able to pull that off.”

Even in some of the more exclusive regions of Orange County, like Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, simply adding amenities to older buildings is not enough for tenants to justify the higher rents, says Wilhelm. “If the property doesn’t have enough characteristics to feed what tenants are lolling for today, it’s too costly to do a renovation and upgrade.”

When will the multifamily-unit bubble burst, he asks? “There are different statistics, even across the board. Some individuals think we’re there, others think we have a little ways to go and others think we have a long way to go. It comes back to geographic location."

It’s too early in the game to know if the doubling-up trend will impact multifamily design, Wilhelm adds. “I don’t think there are enough studies to try to answer that yet. If you increase unit size, is the market going to allow you to charge more? On the flip side, you can keep the same size units and make the bedrooms a little larger, but shrink down some of the living areas. But you don’t really want to go there because that’s what’s selling. Lifestyle living is what people are looking for today.”

Apartment Features are Dependent on Geography

By Carrie Rossenfeld

IWilhelm Headshot 2RVINE, CA—Not every apartment amenity will work in every submarket, so it’s important to know your audience before incorporating features into new buildings, says Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction. As reported last week, the firm recently completed extensive renovations on 27 Seventy Five Apts., a 468-unit garden-style apartment community in Costa Mesa, CA, owned by UDR Inc., in addition to several upscale recreation buildings for the Rancho Mission Viejo Co. in its master-planned communities Sendero and Gavilan in Rancho Mission Viejo, CA. We sat down with Wilhelm to discuss the evolution of these amenities and what developers need to know about the latest apartment features. Which came first regarding the demand for the high-style, high-function amenities you’ve incorporated into these properties? Did developers begin to offer them, so the market caught on and began to demand them? Or did residents begin to ask for these amenities on their own, and developers began to listen?

Wilhelm: The market has had a need for some time now for a change in design amenities. We realized that we developers need to start listening to our tenants. Who is the end user? Who is our client? What is their need today vs. yesterday, and what can we offer them I our locations? At Rancho Mission Viejo, which is geared toward an older resident, we have different amenities than at 27 Seventy Five Apts., which appeals to the younger generation. The younger group wants an indoor/outdoor environment, nice cabanas, fire pits, large-screen TVs, and an exterior nightclub kind of feel. This drives up the rental cost, but renters in their early 30s who want to go to a wild place are willing to spend an extra $500 to $1,000 a month knowing they’ll have those amenities. That’s money that would have been spent elsewhere, but now they don’t have to. That’s a good point—how are these high-end amenities affecting rental rates or buy-in costs for residents?

Wilhelm: What we are seeing is what the nicer amenities are doing. They’re taking an older existing property that might be a C property and moving it up into the B+ range, or maybe even an A+ range. The cost increase is based on location: in Silicon Valley, renters may expect to pay $1,000 to $2,000 a month extra, but in Orange County that will be less in some properties. In the Orange County rental market, the Irvine Co. has done a phenomenal job with gorgeous properties, but they get higher rents on the outskirts of the market because of what they offer. It justifies the value.

It can work the opposite way, too. I’ve seen a couple of deals where a property was bought and the renovation process was completed with the expectation that it would drive up the rental rates, only to find that it’s not always so. It depends on the zip code. Developers have gone through a learning curve and seen that geography plays a major role. What’s next in the evolution of amenities?


Wilhelm: A year ago, I probably would have said having a cocktail bar in a public area was next, but we now have that at Rancho Mission Viejo. That, to me, was really going outside the box. I think amenities continue to be driven by guest needs. We go through this with the hospitality industry: Where are the Millennials going to take us?

Culture may also have a little bit of play in this. It also depends on what kind of expendable dollars residents have. Can they afford more of a resort environment? It’s definitely going to that degree today. In the future, it may mean a spa treatment.

I think every property needs to be conscientious about who its tenants are, what cultures they come from and what things people from different cultures are looking for. We have experienced that considerably on the hospitality side of the fence from the perspective of investors, travelers and local citizens, having to make a change with cultural considerations. Does it often happen that the hospitality market leads the other market sectors?

Wilhelm: It kind of goes in cycles. In the trend we’re going through today, multifamily probably took the initial lead because as unemployment goes down and people make more money, they don’t go out and buy a home, but spend more on rent. That’s what started the process. Hotels were right behind as people began to travel more. And there again, that’s geographic—there might be very little happening in one neck of the woods, but further south or west, you’d be amazed at the amount of development going on right now. Amenities are also driving single-family housing, and there’s the community engagement by the office sector, too.

How Residents Raise the Bar on Amenities

By Carrie Rossenfeld

Outdoor amenities are a huge draw for 27 Seventy Five Apts.

Residents of all ages are demanding high-style, high-function common amenities, according to R.D. Olson Construction. The firm recently completed extensive renovations on 27 Seventy Five Apts., a 468-unit garden-style apartment community in Costa Mesa, CA, owned by UDR Inc., in addition to several upscale recreation buildings for the Rancho Mission Viejo Co. in its master-planned communities Sendero and Gavilan in Rancho Mission Viejo, CA.

The 27 Seventy Five Apts., for which the locally based construction firm has served as general contractor, has been repositioned with contemporary upgrades and features. All apartment units and exteriors at the project have been renovated, infrastructure and amenities throughout have been upgraded, and the firm has also built a new, 14,000-square-foot community building and reconstructed the 3-acre lake that functions as the centerpiece of the community. Peak West Development served as construction manager for the project.

According to Bill Wilhelm, president of R.D. Olson Construction, “This project’s combination of construction and renovation elements, along with the need to complete the work while keeping the complex operational for residents, were challenges that our team was able to tackle head on. The result is a modern, amenity-rich apartment community that will suit the needs of the next generation of residents.”

 The updated apartments feature sleek, open living spaces with contemporary lighting, modern kitchens, luxurious bathrooms and ample windows. Community amenities include upgraded eco-friendly landscaping, lighted sport courts, a pool and outdoor lounges and grills. The newly constructed community building features a rooftop lounge, game room, conference and business centers, fitness facilities and a great room with a fireplace. The project was designed by Costa Mesa-based Newman Garrison + Partners.

 At Rancho Mission Viejo, R.D. Olson has completed four recreation buildings: Hacienda, Ranch House, Guest House and the Outpost. The 11,000-square-foot Hacienda caters to senior adults and includes a luxurious great room with bar, yoga studio and fitness center, outdoor cabanas and bocce courts. Ranch House is a 5,400-square-foot clubhouse that features an exercise room, pool, spa and water-play area for kids. The 5,800-square-foot Guest House includes a community room and full catering kitchen for residents; the OThe Outpost clubhouse at Rancho Mission Viejo features a pool and spa, complete with a bar, outdoor cabanas and bocce courts, as well as a barbecue and hammock area.utpost, a 2,200-square-foot clubhouse, features a pool and spa, complete with a bar, outdoor cabanas and bocce courts, as well as a barbecue and hammock areas. was unable to reach Wilhelm prior to deadline to discuss the evolution of high-style amenities for residents, but stay tuned for an upcoming interview with him in which we explore the subject more deeply.

Listening to residents in order to understand their needs and wants is crucial in commercial real estate development. As reported earlier this month, understanding what each community needs and what their unique challenges are is key to a successful planning, according to Brian Judd, principal of design, planning and environmental firm PlaceWorks.