New owners of Hillside Centre developed it in 1969

Ownership of the renovated Hillside Centre has come full circle, with its original developer in 1969 buying it back on behalf of its property fund.

Bentall Kennedy announced Thursday that it has purchased Hillside Centre and two Ontario malls from the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board for its Prime Canadian Property Fund.

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The purchase price is not being released, said Paul Zemla, chief investment officer for Bentall Kennedy Canada.

“This acquisition is consistent with the long-term investment strategy of the Bentall Kennedy Prime Canadian Property Fund,” Zemla said.

“The fund’s retail strategy includes a focus on top-quality regional shopping centres that offer an ‘experiential draw’ capable of attracting repeat customer visits.”

Redcliff Realty, which was managing Hillside for the investment board, will no longer be used because Bentall has its own property management arm, Zemla said. “We will be managing the asset going forward.”

Bentall Kennedy’s Prime Canadian Property Fund holds more than $3.5 billion in Canadian real estate assets on behalf of more than 120 Canadian and global institutional investors.

The Ontario centres purchased are White Oaks Mall, a 689,000-square-foot mall in London and Eastgate Square, a 505,000-square-foot centre in Hamilton.

Dominion Construction, led by the Bentall family, was Hillside’s developer.

The first phase of the original Hillside mall opened in February 1969 with Simpsons-Sears as its anchor tenant and 33 stores. Its second phase quickly followed, to bring the shopping centre to 400,000 square feet of retail space, with room for 26 more stores and a department store, plus parking for 2,000 cars.

This latest transaction marks the second time Hillside has changed hands in recent years.

In 2010, Hillside was sold for $113.5 million to the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board by the Ontario Pension Plan. At that time, the mall was 431,000 square feet. Today, it is more than 590,000 square feet.

Construction workers are on site as Hillside nears completion of its $80-million interior and exterior renovation and expansion that has brought in new stores and expanded existing tenant space to create a mix of more than 100 outlets.

Still to open in 2014 are a Target store and Marshalls, which are among American retailing giants heading into Canada. Construction workers are still on site to prepare for spring openings for those two stores.

Last month, Vancouver Island’s largest SportChek opened in Hillside, filling 20,000 square feet on the ground level and 8,000 square feet on its second level, where Atmosphere sells active wear and sports gear.

Hillside’s website lists 33 new stores either open or coming next year.

Environmentally friendly improvements include rain gardens, permeable pavers and increasing the number of trees on the property. Hillside’s walls will be used as vertical gardens.

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