Royalton Hotel Demolition ‘Bittersweet’ For Family After Years Of Legal Struggles

Royalton Hotel Demolition ‘Bittersweet’ For Family After Years Of Legal Struggles
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OCEAN CITY – It took more than 13 years of planning and litigation to demolish the Royalton Hotel on the Ocean City Boardwalk, but now its owners are hopeful that rebuilding one of the resort’s mainstay oceanfront hotels will only take 13 months.

The 38-unit hotel on 11th street and the Boardwalk was torn down on Tuesday morning, making way for a 57-unit, five and a half story hotel, with modern amenities and a top level indoor pool.

“To see it finally come down was definitely bittersweet,” said Virginia DiFilippo Cipollone, whose family has owned the property since 1970. “When my parents came here from Italy, we lived on the third floor and my sister and I would work there in the summers. It was a huge part of our lives.”

Cipollone’s father, Carlo DiFilippo, had the idea to reconstruct the hotel in the 1990’s, but initial schematics and plans weren’t done until 2003. However, those plans hit a snag when the city told the family that the Royalton’s neighbor, the Boardwalk Terrace had to sign off on the demo plans. That “long and expensive” part of the process dragged on between lawyers and courtrooms until 2015, according to Cipollone.

Carlo DiFilippo and his two investment partners bought the hotel, which was built in 1927 by Harry and Ethel Kelley (parents of former Ocean City Mayor Harry Kelley) in 1970. By 1983, DiFilippo’s partners sold their shares and two new partners were brought in. Based on city zoning laws at the time, the partners split the building into the Royalton and the Boardwalk Terrace.

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Yet, while the businesses were split, the infrastructure of the building remained intact, so thusly, when it came to tearing down one of the structures and leaving the other, it created quite a quagmire.

“All demolitions are a little bit tricky, but this one was especially tricky,” said Justin Miller of JNT Enterprises in Pasadena. “I would liken it to when you have to take down a row home in Baltimore and make sure that the rest in the row are in good shape when one comes down.”

Miller said the demolition was what’s known as a “top-down” approach, using a long-boom excavator to essentially help the building implode on itself.

“Some demolitions you just tear it all down and haul the rubble away,” said Miller. “There was no room for margin of error here because we didn’t want to damage the other building so we had to be precise.”

Miller’s team went to great lengths so they could control how the building came down, but he noted that much of the hardest work was done to separate the two buildings altogether.

“These two buildings shared a sewer line, so that needed to be fixed, and there were countless bits of cable wire and electrical wire too,” he said. “The Boardwalk Terrace had to be supported and cribbed with new walls so their building didn’t fall down as we tore down the Royalton. We’ve taken every precaution we can and feel good about our three years of planning for this day.”

In 2011, the hotel was deemed “unsafe and unfit for human occupancy” by the town of Ocean City after an inspection for a proposed renovation revealed major structural damage to the foundation’s wooden pilings.

“Like many old houses in Ocean City that were built on wooden pilings, they never treated the wood”, said Miller, “so they were essentially like big trees without the bark. They had rotted out entirely and there was nothing holding them in the ground anymore.”

An engineer was brought in shortly after the city’s findings and administered a temporary fix to the structural issues, pouring concrete to fortify the wooden pilings and crisscrossed steel cables to help hold the building to the ground.

That temporary fix worked, but reconstruction was deemed to be the only real solution for the future by the family.

As the long boom of the excavator tore into the hotel on Tuesday morning, Cipollone says the dream of a new family hotel in Ocean City finally feels real.

“We are excited that, number one, we are finally separated from our neighbors, both physically and legally,” said Cipollone. “Secondly, we’ll have a lucrative new business that we can be proud of on the oceanfront of Ocean City.”

The hotel will be renamed the Hotel Monte Carlo Oceanfront and could be open by late spring of 2017.

Once demolition is complete, all that will remain on 11th Street of the Royalton Hotel is rubble and memories, but after 13 years waiting to get to this point, Cipollone and her family have their eyes fixated on the future.

About The Author: Bryan Russo

Bryan Russo returned to The Dispatch in 2015 to serve as News Editor after working as a staff writer from 2007-2010 covering the Ocean City news beat. In between, Russo worked as the Coastal Reporter for NPR-member station WAMU 88.5FM in Washington DC and WRAU 88.3 FM on the Delmarva Peninsula. He was the host of a weekly multi-award winning public affairs show “Coastal Connection.” During his five years in public radio, Russo’s work won 19 Associated Press Awards and 2 Edward R. Murrow Awards and was heard on various national programs like NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, APM’s Marketplace and the BBC. Russo also worked for the Associated Press (Philadelphia Bureau) covering the NHL and the NBA and is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter and composer.