Media Coverage:

OCBJ: Bob's the Builder

Jan 8 2019

It’s been a whirlwind period of growth for Bob Olson, who over a 10-year stretch has gone from Orange County’s biggest and best-known hotel developer, to the largest in Southern California, to the most prolific in the Golden State.

While other real estate execs’ complaints about regulations and challenges building in the state are commonplace, Olson sees things a bit differently.

Being able to navigate the tricky regulatory waters here “has been a good barrier to entry,” and kept other national hotel builders on the sidelines while his R.D. Olson Development—now the largest hotel developer in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River—has been able to grab new business up and down the state’s coast, Olson said.

Since 2008, R.D. Olson has completed 18 projects with nearly 2,700 rooms. Those projects have a value approaching $2 billion. Eight of those projects are in Orange County.

“When it comes to developing hotels in coastal California he has no rival,” said Joe Ueberroth, founder of Newport Beach-based Bellwether Financial Group and now a partner with Olson for a high-profile project just kicking off in Dana Point.

While Newport Beach-based R.D. Olson has an active development pipeline across the state and in other western U.S. markets—an AC Hotels by Marriott is in the works for Maui this year, next to an existing Residence Inn that his company opened in 2016—his projects in Orange County stole the show over the past year.

n A new 271-room, 14-story Marriott Irvine Spectrum, the largest full-service hotel to open in South OC in a decade, opened to fanfare in Irvine, giving the city one of its hippest new nightspots with the Honey & Hive rooftop bar.

n The 130-room Lido House, the first significant hotel to open in Newport Beach in a decade, opened in April and is surpassing initial projections in terms of occupancy and average daily rates.

n Dana Point Harbor Partners LLC, a three-company venture that Olson is part of, was selected by the county to revitalize that city’s 300-acre marina, in what will be one of OC’s largest commercial real estate projects over the next few years.

“It’s been a busy few years. Last year was especially busy for us,” Olson said.

Those trio of local developments, along with a lengthy list of other achievements in 2018—including an eye-opening, previously unreported local transaction in Surf City—are why the Business Journal selected Olson as its Businessperson of the Year in the real estate sector (see other profiles, pages 4, 6, 8 and 10).