GLOBAL - Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) has opened its first retail property development in Europe through a joint venture with fund manager Meyer Bergman.

Forum Nová Karolina is the largest shopping centre in the Czech city of Ostrava and has opened its doors six months after being sold by Multi Corporation to HOOPP and the Meyer Bergman European Retail Partners I fund.

Lisa Lafave, senior real estate portfolio manager at HOOPP said it was a “landmark development” for the CAD35.7bn (€27.1bn) Canadian pension fund, which began investing in European real estate in 2010.

“Real estate investing delivers steady income, and is an important part of the way HOOPP delivers on its defined benefit pension,” Lafave said.

“This investment is an excellent fit with our strategic long-term objective of providing the pension to more than 260,000 working and retired healthcare workers.”

Similarly, Markus Meijer, chief executive and founder of Meyer Bergman, said the deal marked a “key milestone” for the company and reflected its “continued belief in the strength of the Czech economy and its retail environment”.

He added: “With an excellent line-up of high quality tenants, and having attracted eight new retailers to the city, we are confident that this prime shopping centre, in the heart of Ostrava, is well placed to deliver solid returns for our investors.”

Forum Nová Karolina is the first shopping centre to open in the Czech Republic in more than a year and the developers claim it is the most significant retail offering in the Moravia-Silesia region.

The circa 60,000 square metre centre is anchored by an Albert hypermarket, international retailers H&M, Marks & Spencer and C&A, and includes an eight-screen multiplex cinema.

It is the first phase of one of the largest urban development and regeneration projects in the Czech Republic. The scheme, which is being carried out by a consortium of developers, comprises a complete extension of the inner city and is scheduled for completion in 2016.