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New plans filed for Chinatown's empty Velvet Turtle lot

Seven-story building with 162 housing units

A long-dusty lot in Chinatown just might get a new, seven-story mixed-user with 162 apartments and commercial space, according to plans filed Monday with the city’s planning department.

Two years ago, the building at 708 North Hill Street that had housed the once-fashionable Velvet Turtle restaurant was razed. (The restaurant’s sign, depicting a turtle in a top hat, remains on the site.) The idea at the time was to erect a $25-million mixed-use development, but those plans from 2012 never got off the ground, and the lot remains empty today.

City records show the property sold in January 2015 for $10.5 million. New plans call for 162 housing units, 5,000 square feet of commercial space at street level, and two-and-a-half levels of underground parking for residents. The building would top out at 89 feet.

Forward movement on the site comes as developers continue to build steadily in Chinatown. This new mixed-user would be just two blocks north of a big new project, LA Plaza Cultura Village, between El Pueblo and the Fort Moore memorial that’s turning two parking lots into a multi-building, mixed-use development. It’s also just a couple of blocks away from Blossom Plaza, the residential and retail complex that opened this summer just next to the Chinatown Gold Line station.