Would you like to joint venture with the Queen?

Well, one Canadian firm is doing just that. Sort of.

The Crown Estate -- the company that manages property on behalf of the Crown outside of the Queen's private property -- will now partner with Oxford Properties, the real estate division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, in a $500 million project to develop a swathe of Central London.

The 50/50 partnership will create 270,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and offices in St James's, allowing the Crown Estate to make good on plans to invest in an area where it owns almost half of the local buildings.

"St James's Market represents a truly exciting opportunity for us to partner with one of London's foremost property companies on a landmark project that will transform a historic corner of London," Paul Brundage, Oxford's executive vice president, said this week.

The move by Canadian pension funds and other corporate investors to go abroad has helped to encourage individual investors to do the same as they look for new opportunities outside of this country's established housing market.

While the southern parts of the U.S. and Central America are attracting the lion's share of that investment, some Canadians are looking to the UK and other mature markets as a way of diversifying their portfolios without taking on the risks associated with emerging markets.

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