In an interesting twist, two of the top three buyers of commercial property in 2009 were — wait for it — institutional investors.

Even though many pension funds, in particular, have been badly burned in this economic downturn, apparently that hasn’t quite whetted their appetite for CRE.

According to new data from New York-based researcher Real Capital Analytics, the nation’s largest pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, was the second-biggest acquirer of commercial real estate in 2009, just behind Regency Centers, a publicly traded shopping center owner which finished the year in the No. 1 slot with $1.74 billion in acquisitions.

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