Q&A – The Art of Being a CFO
January 14, 2019
Interview with Erika Urbani, VP of Finance, CFO at R.D. Olson Construction
The role of a CFO has evolved significantly, due in part to new technologies, regulations and industry advances. As CFO, my focus is not solely on revenue growth but organic growth. This means a shift in responsibilities from financial reporting, forecasting and budgeting, to leading the company in more strategic ways that ensure the overall success of the business.
Successful CFOs are ‘strategists’ – and our role has expanded to focus on:
Clear the Path. CFOs go beyond keeping operations flowing by ensuring appropriate resource allocation, availability of productivity tools and compliance. This often requires us to revisit company policies and find creative solutions to expedite work. We identify ways to optimize the business – to eliminate a step, a piece of paper, or a signature.
Think Big. Despite day-to-day issues that require our time and attention, supporting organic growth requires us to become strategic partners. Each month I meet with our president to discuss our pipeline of construction projects and we ask ourselves and our teams, “What are our barriers to success and peace of mind?” Once we identify these pain points, we find calculated solutions. For RDOC, the result has been financial stability and strategic growth.
Mentors and Succession. I'm often asked the best path to CFO. The truth is you don’t learn the intricacies of being an accomplished CFO in school. While the strongest CFOs earn multiple degrees, it’s the years of hard-earned and hands-on experience that qualifies them to make gut-based decisions and be successful leaders. Leadership tends to be an overlooked skill, but for a CFO it’s more important than the transactional know-how, because it’s what you don’t see in the data that can bite you. It’s up to us to mentor our up-and-coming CFOs on how to be efficient leaders. Those that master the art of mentorship are not only rewarded with strong teams but hope for the future of their industry and confidence in passing the baton.
Double Shot of Hotel Development
November 12, 2018
Dual-Branded Model Makes Local InroadsOrange County Business Journal | By MARK MUELLER
Hotel developers in and around Orange County are seeing double.
Area hotel construction—already in overdrive, especially in the Anaheim resort area— has been accelerating around dual-brand hotel projects, those featuring two hotel properties within the same brand company, such as Hilton or Marriott, at the same site. On some projects, the two hotels are connected, while others put them next to each other on the same grounds. The trend is national, according to a recent report by Los Angeles based hotel consulting group HVS. “Just as the early 2000s realized the proliferation of the boutique hotel concept, the second decade of the new millennium will arguably be known for the growth of the dual-brand hotel concept,” the August report said.
It’s “one of the top three topics” in the industry, said Bill Wilhelm, president of Irvine-based R.D. Olson Construction. The other two hot topics, according to Wilhelm, are figuring out the stage of recovery the hospitality industry is in, and how it can better attract employees in a time of high employment. “In the last four to five years, in the hospitality industry, this has really taken off,” he said of the dual-branding model.
Anaheim, Orange Wilhelm’s construction firm is plenty familiar with the dual-brand phenomenon. In Anaheim, it’s working with locally based developer Nara Investments to build a 125-room Hilton Garden Inn, which will be connected to a 98-room Hilton Home 2 Suites. Ground recently broke on the six-story property immediately west of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway on Manchester Avenue. It’s being built on the former site of a 108-room Quality Inn that was demolished to make way for the new project. The developers also own a nearby Holiday Inn Express. The site, about half a mile from the entrance to Disneyland, will feature a “unique Kids Splash Pad water park,” according to marketing materials for the project, which was designed by BRR Architecture and Studio 11 Design.
About two miles away in Orange, Wilhelm’s firm is working with DCSG Development of Pasadena on a dual-brand project just east of the 5 Freeway on West Chapman Avenue and along the Santa Ana River. The project will feature a 194-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel and a 112-room Residence Inn at the same site, which was previously home to a Motel 6. Construction is due to kick off in about two months. It was designed by Architects Orange and Level 3 Design Group.
Costs, Synergies Developers like the dual-brand concept largely for cost and efficiency savings. “If you put can put two [hotels] on the same property, it can reduce operational costs and back-house costs,” Wilhelm said. That typically means one set of meeting rooms, one swimming pool, and one main kitchen. It also typically means one set of entitlements. From a marketing perspective, the concept can be a good loyalty builder, introducing visitors at one brand to another type of brand they might not have been familiar with. The concept also mitigates some demand risk. “If you’re a developer, maybe a 300-key property [of the same type] doesn’t make sense,” Wilhelm said. But a mix and match of a boutique brand; select-service; limited-service; or extended-stay property could be justified if each has 100 to 150 rooms, he said.
The biggest project risk is “figuring out which [product type] works together and what doesn’t.” Wilhelm said. You “are still building for two different types of customers.”
Tustin Model R.D. Olson Development, the Newport Beach-based development arm of Wilhelm’s construction company, took on its first local dual-brand project when it opened Tustin Pacific Center in 2013, a two-hotel project next to the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway targeting business travelers. The project features a 145-room Fairfield Inn & Suites and a 149-room Residence Inn, both by Marriott. The hotels, which R.D. Olson Development sold in 2015 as part of a $103 million portfolio sale, are on separate sides of the roughly 7.5-acre site. Today, integration is more likely than two stand-alone projects.
“You’re seeing different [models],” said Wilhelm, whose firm is building a dual Marriott-branded project along the water in Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles County, and opened a 290-room H Hotel a year ago near Los Angeles International Airport that features a Curio by Hilton and a Homewood Suites. Nowadays, you might even see a property that swaps hotel type on alternating floors, or two flags on the same floor, Wilhelm said.
Olive Crest Residential Home Kitchen Renovation
September 14, 2018 – Residential Contractor Magazine - September 2018
R.D. Olson Construction Named Civic 50 Orange County Honoree for the 2nd Year in a Row
September 10, 2018
R.D. Olson Construction Makes Moves on the Top 400 Contractors List
May 29, 2018 – Engineering News Record - May 2018
Inside Irvine’s First Full Service Hotel in a Decade
April 13, 2018 – Globe St. - by Kelsi Maree Borland
Building Relationships and Communities
April 11, 2018 – Affordable Housing News - Spring 2018
Olson Construction Seeks Boost in Multiunit Projects
April 9, 2018 – Orange County Business Journal - by Paul Hughes
Is El Segundo L.A.’s Newest Hot Hotel Market?
March 12, 2018 – Globe St. - Kelsi Marie Borland
Adaptive Reuse: A Growing Trend in High-Density Markets
February 6, 2018 – Hotel Online, written by Bill Wilhelm
4 Ways to Ensure Safety on the Jobsite
February 5, 2018 – Construction Dive, written by Bill Wilhelm
Plan aheadLong before a job starts, extensive planning should be done to identify which tasks will be taking place onsite and how best to plan for potential safety hazards. Project managers and field representatives should put preventative measures in place and communicate them to workers, and provide the appropriate tools and equipment. Zoning, which involves blocking off areas where certain tasks are taking place, installing catch platforms, nets and other safety measures, is an important part of this planning phase. By allowing only those working on a task within the zoned area past the barrier, it helps to prevent bystander injury. This methodical process also helps ensure that workers within the zoned area have the right protective equipment and tools for that specific job. One-third of all construction fatalities are a result of falls — from buildings, structural elements and ladders — making them one of the most critical safety issues for which to plan. Appropriate scaffolding needs to be installed, holes in the structure need to be cordoned off or otherwise managed, and other potential fall hazards should be planned for before construction begins. Transportation incidents are the second most common issue, with vehicle contact/collision accounting for 29% of fatalities.
Manage the riskLess obvious factors proven to cause safety issues should always be considered when developing and implementing a safety plan. According to a study commissioned by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), most deaths on construction sites occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., with fatalities peaking around noon. Almost 75% of fatalities happen on Mondays through Thursdays, with industrial projects reporting more incidents than residential, commercial and other project types. What does this mean for you? Consider scheduling safety meetings around noon during the beginning of the week, and make sure there is a strong protocol for safety during lunch breaks. If you are working on an industrial site, encourage frequent safety meetings and perhaps more stringent safety protocol that accounts for the dangers unique to industrial building. The AGC report also shows that small construction companies with one to nine employees account for a much higher fatality rate (26 per 100,000 workers annually) than larger firms. If you are at a smaller company, don’t make safety planning any less of a priority. There is also a strong correlation between fatalities and the summer months, and deaths are also more common in the South than other areas of the country. This may be due to heat-related illness and exhaustion. Make sure workers have adequate access to water, encourage them to take regular breaks and train them to monitor for heat-related issues.
Scheduling and staffingAnother overlooked but pressing safety issue is worker exhaustion. The industry-wide talent shortage can make it difficult to appropriately staff jobsites, leading some companies to over-schedule workers in order to meet demanding construction schedules. But no matter how many preventative measures and education programs you put in place, it’s all for nothing if workers are too physically or mentally worn out to follow protocol. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that accidents and injury rates are 30% greater during night shifts, and working 12 hours per day comes with a 37% increased risk of injury. Safety isn’t just a concern on jobsites, though. Decreased alertness resulting from fatigue has been cited as a contributing factor in major workplace disasters, such as BP's Deepwater Horizon oil refinery explosion, the Challenger space shuttle explosion and the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Don’t put your construction site at risk for disaster just to shave a few days or weeks off the construction schedule. Extended shifts can be correlated with an increased risk of having a car accident on the way home from work by 16.2%. They can also lead to a higher probability of developing health problems due to prolonged exposure to chemical and noise hazards. Companies can help prevent worker exhaustion, and improve retention, by limiting extended shifts, ensuring employees and subcontractors aren’t working too many hours and taking possible talent shortages into account when creating the project schedule.
Safety as a cultureFor a safety program to be successful, safety needs to be integral to a company’s culture. Education is one way to instill this. OSHA’s 30-hour Construction Training Course is one example of a valuable program that ensures every worker has the same comprehensive knowledge that can be built upon during company trainings. While the OSHA program is geared toward safety directors, foremen and field supervisors, it is ideal if everyone in the company goes through the training to make sure the takeaways are spread across every level of the organization. Trainings shouldn’t be relegated only to management and employees. It’s best if subcontractors and other partners also receive trainings, ensuring their safety standards are in line with a GC's own. Regular safety events, onsite and off, that teach workers about the latest regulations and give refreshers about existing ones are also critical to promoting a culture of safety. They can range from brief onsite recaps to fun team-building exercises. Regardless of the format, they typically should be done at least weekly to make safety part of workers' daily mindsets. Planning, risk management, staffing and education are all important components of keeping job sites safe. As an industry, we owe it to our workers to prioritize safety and give them all the tools necessary to prevent incidents before they occur.
Scoring Newport Beach Bingo
January 19, 2018 – The Real Deal - Kavita Daswani
National general contracting and construction management firm R.D. Olson Construction, based in Irvine, is building the luxury Lido House Hotel in Newport Beach. The hotel, on the site of the former City Hall, is part of Marriott International’s Autograph brand.
Slated to open in the spring of 2018, the 103,000-square-foot, four-story, 130-room hotel is located close to the Lido Marina Village, a shopping and entertainment center, which itself underwent a renovation last year. Developed by DJM Capital Partners, the 116,000-square-foot retail, dining and creative office project now houses trendy eateries such as Nobu and fashion brands such as Elyse Walker and Warby Parker in addition to a 47-slip marina. "
Adaptive Re-Use Emerges as Hotel Sector’s Hedge Against Risk
January 12, 2018 – Connect Media
The Most Anticipated Hotel Openings of 2018
December 30, 2017 – Vogue - by Christina Liao
Downtown Los Angeles is going through a resurgence and the arrival of the new NoMad is only further proof of its comeback. The flagship property, along with its stellar restaurant, has long been favored by New Yorkers (it was even chosen by Beyoncé for her Soul Train–theme birthday party last year), which will make this second outpost particularly special for bicoastal travelers. Arriving late January, NoMad Los Angeles is taking over Giannini Place, a building originally built in the 1920s that served as the Bank of Italy’s headquarters. Aspects of its Neoclassical construction have been preserved and the hotel’s 241 rooms will pull inspiration from the carefully restored gold and blue Italianate lobby ceiling while still maintaining the Parisian flare we’ve come to know and love. The food and beverage program will be overseen by chef Daniel Humm (of acclaimed Eleven Madison Park) and restaurateur Will Guidara and will include an Italy-inspired café, but the rooftop, with its alfresco dining space, cocktail bar, and pool, will surely be an instant hit.
R.D. Olson Brings Dual-Branded H Hotel To The Los Angeles Airport
December 13, 2017 – Hotel Management - by Elliott Mest
When it comes to hotel conversions, nothing offers up surprises like a concrete office building from the 1960s. When R.D. Olson Construction cracked into what would eventually become the H Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton and Homewood Suites in Los Angeles, company president Bill Wilhelm didn’t expect to find a backup transformer for the nearby Los Angeles International Airport, as well as a walk-in vault buried behind a number of walls.
Wilhelm said such “features” were unexpected, yet not too uncommon in the world of adaptive reuse. When the building’s owner, Sea View Investors, partnered with R.D. Olson to build a dual-branded Curio/Homewood Suites by Hilton combo out of a leftover building at the LAX airport, Wilhelm took one look at the property’s documentation and boiled it down to one word: Vague.
“It looked like a prison building,” he said. “It had concrete fiberglass fins on the outside. It wasn’t that attractive. We learned a long time ago the best thing to do in instances such as these would be to take the interior all the way down to the structural bones. The mechanical systems may have some life left in them, but you may be better off tearing it all out. So we did.”
R.D. Olson determined that the exterior of the building was good enough to keep, but updated it to modern aesthetic standards. Roughly $60 million was spent on converting the property into a dual-branded hotel. Unfortunately, Wilhelm said the building’s hidden vault had to go.
“We hate to tear apart something with a great story, and of course it’s quite costly because these things are built like Fort Knox, but location made the difference,” Wilhem said. “We talked about keeping the vault because it was impressive. Unfortunately it was dead center on the first floor and conflicted with a planned retail restaurant. There was no way to lay out around it.”
“Both fitness centers are impressive, but the Curio is over the top,” Wilhem said. “It’s located on the 12th floor, it overlooks the LAX runways and when you’re on a treadmill it feels like you are running down the landing strip. Homewood’s fitness center is more internal, and overall it’s a different presentation.”
Unlike the vault, the aforementioned LAX transformer was forced to stay on property. Wilhelm said developers were forced to work with the Los Angeles Department for Work and Pensions—as well as a coordinated shutdown of backup emergency generators at LAX during certain periods of development—partly to update the transformer to meet current safety and electrical standards. However, Wilhelm said these are typical aspects of an adaptive reuse such as this, particularly one located near an airport. The biggest challenge facing developers today, he said, lies with subcontractor resources.
“It’s an industrywide challenge,” Wilhelm said. “Developers need strong relationships. We counted our lucky stars on this one because we had strong relationships, which made it easier than it could have been. Another challenge is city agencies, as they are all understaffed. They are doing a good job keeping up with the number of products going up in Los Angeles, but it’s taxing these systems.”
For the future of the LAX development market, Wilhelm said there are still opportunities for future growth, almost exclusively in adaptive-reuse projects. Like many developers in the industry, he has concerns about oversupply, and he cautions against overbuilding in a market that may not be able to sustain it.
“In the short term, we have to be careful due to how supply and demand is playing out,” he said. “The airport is spending billions on growing its infrastructure and terminals, and the Olympics is coming to Los Angeles in eight years. That may seem like a long time, but it will take a lot of effort and planning. We have to be careful, and we have to reinvest in our communities to keep opportunities close to home and make these developments sustainable.”
Adaptive Re-use Dominates Hotel Builds
November 22, 2017 – Globe St. - Kelsi Maree Borland
“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 GlobeSt.com. “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
November 21, 2017 – Globe St. - Carrie Rossenfeld
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 GlobeSt.com. 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
November 6, 2017
R.D. Olson Construction Highlighted in the Orange County Business Journal
October 23, 2017
R.D. Olson Construction named Civic 50 Orange County Honoree
September 18, 2017
New Affordable Projects Help Residents Live Near Work
September 8, 2017 – Globe St. - Carrie Rossenfeld
Record Number Of California Hotel Rooms Open in First Half of 2017
July 18, 2017 – Orange County Register
R.D. Olson Construction Named as One of the Best Places to Work in Orange County for the Second Year in A Row
June 29, 2017
What Determines If Hotel Projects Move Forward?
March 3, 2017
R.D. Olson Contributes Insight to the Wall Street Journal
February 22, 2017
Four R.D. Olson Projects Mentioned and Honored in California Meeting and Events Magazine
February 17, 2017 – California Meetings & Events
CEO, Bob Olson, recognized in the Orange County Business Journal’s OC500
November 15, 2016 – Orange County Business Journal
Build Magazine recognizes R.D. Olson Construction as Most Innovative General Contractor and Most Innovative Hotel/Resort Project for the Pasea Hotel & Spa
October 26, 2016
More public spaces. Catering to international visitors. Hotels with local flair.
October 23, 2016 – Orange County Register
R.D. Olson Construction Named as One of the Best Places to Work in Orange County
July 25, 2016 – Orange County Business Journal
Building a Gem
July 14, 2016 – Construction Today
Is Goleta a Hotbed for Hotels?
July 1, 2016 – GlobeSt.com
R.D. Olson moves up another spot to #11 on the OCBJ Top Commercial Construction Companies List
June 13, 2016
R.D. Olson Once Again on the Top 400 US Contractors List
May 19, 2016 – Engineering News Record
Bicycle Casino Highlighted in Lodging Magazine
April 5, 2016 – Lodging Magazine - April 2016
Sense of Place Hugely Important for Hotels
March 9, 2016 – Globe St. - Carrie Rossenfeld
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 St.com
Tracking the Rise of Microhotels
February 26, 2016 – Globe St. - Carrie Rossenfeld
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 GlobeSt.com. 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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
January 27, 2016 – GlobeSt.com
IRVINE, 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 GlobeSt.com. 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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
January 18, 2016 – Orange County Business Journal
By 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
January 6, 2016 – Western Real Estate Business
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
December 29, 2015 – Orange County Register
High 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
December 22, 2015 – CSUF Mihaylo Magazine
By 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
November 17, 2015 – Construction Today
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
November 9, 2015 – Orange County Business Journal
CONSTRUCTION: Builder looks to downshift on hotel work
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.
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.
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
October 27, 2015 – Globe St.com
ORANGE, 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 GlobeSt.com. 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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”
October 9, 2015 – Building Industry Hawaii - October 2015
"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'...so 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
August 31, 2015 – GlobeSt.com, by Kelsi Maree Borland
Los 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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
GlobeSt.com: 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
August 17, 2015 – GlobeSt.com, by Carrie Rossenfeld
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 GlobeSt.com. We sat down with Wilhelm for an exclusive interview about how user expectations about amenities are shifting planners’ and developers’ approach to their properties.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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.
GlobeSt.com: 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
June 16, 2015 – Electronic News Record
Irvine, 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.