AO, R.D. Olson Construction break ground on San Diego Element by Marriott

AO, a full-service architecture firm with design expertise spanning the full commercial real estate spectrum, and R.D. Olson Construction, a general contracting firm in California, have begun construction on the Element Hotel by Marriott in San Diego County. The seven-story, 150-key, hotel tower for client Driftwood Capital will be situated next to the existing full-service Marriott Hotel Mission Valley and is designed to share the pool amenity deck and restaurants with that facility while maintaining its own entrance, lobby, lounge and amenities. Completion is expected in winter of 2026.

Both AO and R.D. Olson Construction have experience in hospitality projects, and specifically have worked on Marriott hotels in the past. This is the first Element Hotel partnership for the two firms, and the first to be built in San Diego County for Marriot. The 98,000-sq.-ft. hotel will offer views of the river corridor and Mission Valley from many of its tower rooms. A destination for tourist and business travelers, it will be eight miles from attractions at Mission Bay, dining and shopping in downtown San Diego, and  accessible from Hwy 8. Guests will enjoy amenities such as a 5,300-sq.-ft. conference and ballroom space, fitness center, meeting rooms, spacious lobby and lounge, in addition to access to the main pool and exterior lounge areas.

Embracing a modern, elegant design, the new hotel’s warm, neutral tones reflect the natural beauty of the Southern California location. The ground up construction is on the former tennis courts of the Marriott Hotel, southwest of the main building, so great care is being taken to maintain the work site separate from the existing property. The base of the structure will be two stories of concrete construction with five stories of wood frame above, an efficient and cost-effective building method, according to the companies. Once completed, the project will comply with Title 24 energy and water use criteria, which is approximate to LEED’s silver level.

“It’s important for us at AO to treat each project individually. We are designing this new Element Hotel to be unique from the nearby Marriott Mission Valley, with its distinguishing arrival area and placemaking, while still tasked with marrying the two properties seamlessly,” said Bruce Greenfield, partner, AO. “We trust our partners at R.D. Olson Construction to remain true to Marriott’s standards and bring to life Element’s specific look.”

Construction and design challenges exist in building the new hotel, resulting in strict measures needed due to the project’s proximity to the San Diego MTS trolley Green Rail line. Subsequently, a 15-ft. retaining wall is necessary to increase the grade for the concrete building pad. With that, AO and R.D. Olson Construction have extensive experience in working with local city and transit authorities to ensure all requirements are met. The firms specialize in negotiating inspections, variances and approvals.

“R.D. Olson’s partnership with Marriott goes back many years, and we are excited to be working on this new project for the Element brand in San Diego,” said Bill Wilhelm, president, R.D. Olson Construction. “Our wealth of knowledge in hospitality, in particular hotels, allows us to focus on the details that really matter to an operating hotel and handover a high-quality product that functions the way a hotel property should. Similarly, it’s always great collaborating with AO, as we have done in the past. They are one of the best architecture firms in the state and have a keen sense for designing hospitality projects.”

Partners on the project include structural engineer, Ficcadenti Waggoner and Castle; civil engineer, Kimley-Horn; MEP Engineer, RTM Engineering; and interior design by Linda Snyder Associates.