Orange County Register
Veteran Hotel Developers Talk Building Boom, Under Demolished and Overbuilt Areas
By Hannah Madans
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.
Q. The Lido House Hotel in Newport Beach is a huge, historic project. Can you tell me about plans for the development?
A. 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…