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Three Questions With … Bill Wilhelm

By Janis L. Magin | Pacific Business News

The porte cochere and entry of the AC by Marriott Maui Wailea, is seen in this rendering. R.D. Olson recently started construction on the 110-room hotel, which was designed by Honolulu architecture firm AHL.
COURTESY AHL

R.D. Olson Construction has completed more than a dozen hotel and retail projects in Hawaii in the 25 years President Bill Wilhelm has been with the company, the latest a new hotel on Maui— Hawaii’s first AC Marriott.
The new hotel is located next door to another R.D. Olson project in Wailea, the Residence Inn by Marriott, Wailea, which was completed in fall 2016. R.D. Olson also built the Courtyard by Marriott Maui Kahului Airport and completed the renovation in 2010 of the former Yacht Harbor Tower in Waikiki into the Waikiki Edition, which then became The Modern Honolulu.

Wilhelm, who was named president in 2014, recently told Pacific Business News that the California-based company’s focus is project specific, and said its success building in the Islands comes down to relationships and managing logistics.

“It’s all about managing resources and where do you place them at a point in time,” Wilhelm recently told Pacific Business News. “Over the many years of having relationships with a subcontractor community that just adds to our overall success.”

R.D. Olson Construction is an affiliate of R.D. Olson Development, developer on the Maui hotel projects, including the AC Marriott, which was designed by AHL, formerly known as Architects Hawaii Ltd. The companies are currently working on plans for yet another Maui hotel project —this one on five acres it plans to purchase from Alexander & Baldwin down the street from the airport hotel.

How is building in Hawaii compared to the Mainland?

We are fortunate we have been present in Hawaii for quite a few years. Whether it’s Hawaii or building over on Catalina Island … it’s creating partnerships with our local subcontractor communities. Understanding site logistics, shipping materials to Hawaii, you have to be on your “A” game when it comes to coordination. Today it’s not just the materials – but the manpower resources [too].

What’s the biggest challenge with working in Hawaii?

I guess the challenge is that there is a greater appreciation for quality. The mentality is a little more cautious on what we produce, which is impressive, whereas in other parts of the country, which I see more and more of, is everybody’s trying to generate production and move on. I’d be lying if I didn’t say getting labor and materials isn’t tough.

Do you do design-build projects?

Yes. Because we have that kind of engagement with our sister company and other clients. We’re asked quite often ‘what architect would you bring in?’ It’s an expanded version of design assist – we’re kind of driving the boat.