The Research Triangle Park

Leading North Carolina: Virginia “Ginny” Rand Bowman

By Jul 09, 2015

Leading North Carolina is a series focused on letting you get to know the board members of the Research Triangle Foundation of NC. This board has been in place since RTP’s beginnings, and helps to guide the decisions being made about the future of the Park. Each member of the board has a unique background that is invaluable when it comes to making decisions. We are continually thankful for their time and wisdom! 

Ginny Bowman is a change maker. As the managing general partner of Northgate Associates LLLP, she works hard behind the scenes to help transform her community.

Ginny grew up with the commercial real estate business.  Her father originally bought the land adjacent to I-85 to build a Coca Cola bottling facility because it had outgrown its downtown Durham location. Mr. Rand couldn’t get the land zoned for an industrial use, so a shopping center was a good match for the land.

The Northgate Shopping Complex is located near the Trinity Park neighborhood, downtown Durham and Duke University. “We started as a strip center and have become a regional shopping landmark,” Ginny says.

While the mall was transitioning, so was Ginny. She left the area for boarding school and college. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked in property management and real estate; then she moved to Buies Creek, NC when her husband attended law school at Campbell University. “I didn’t think I would live here as a grown up,” Ginny said of her hometown.

In the 1980s, the Bull City started several renovation and expansion projects, including transforming old tobacco warehouses into trendy Brightleaf Square, which became home to retailers and restaurants, and the remodeling of Carolina Theater and the Durham Arts Council. Durham started to thrive culturally.

Armed with experience in real estate, Ginny returned to the family business. In 1985, she became the managing general partner of the limited partnership.

During the mall’s heyday from 1993-2001, the Bull City shopping complex was home to several free-standing banks, 15,000 square-foot office building, an 86,000 square-foot strip center, 800,000 square-foot regional mall anchored by Hecht’s, Sears and Belk’s with the first Ann Taylor, Bombay Company, Garden Botanica, Gadzooks and Disney stores in the Triangle.

Like many malls across the country, Northgate is in transition. “Now we have started de-malling, taking enclosed spaces and creating spaces with access from the exterior. It’s always a work in progress,” says Ginny “We are finding many non-traditional uses for our property. More than 70,000 square-feet of lower level space is home to startup businesses, a Durham Technical Community College satellite campus for health care training and Dress for Success’s regional headquarters.”

Today, Northgate is still home to national chains but has more locally and regionally owned stores and restaurants than most of the area’s other malls. The enclosed mall is complemented by an outdoor plaza for music and entertainment events, a multi-screen cinema complex with state- of-the-art seating and surround-sound, the Durham Arts Council Clay Studio, and a beauty institute.  Northgate continues to re-invent itself every day.

Ginny brings her background as a local businesswoman to the Research Triangle Foundation board. David L. Ward Jr., a New Bern attorney and Research Triangle Foundation board director emeritus, says Ginny’s expertise will be valuable as the Park transitions from being a landlord to large global companies to building a multi-use community. “She brings the life skills of running a major shopping center and dealing with tenants of all kinds,” Mr. Ward says.

As the owner of a regional retail development, Ginny says she is recognized at trade association meetings as the person from the “Golden Triangle Area,” known for its research park.  We’ve always had a real presence around the United States. There are not many places like it in the Unites States, its location, mild climate; university connections and welcoming environment are a huge attraction for businesses of all types.

Like the mall business, Ginny believes the Park must keep up with trends or risk losing its viability and brand. One of those is a collaborative space open to the public called The Frontier. It’s an old IBM building open free to the public along with some office spaces rented for a low fee.

“I’m enthusiastic about the master plan that we are creating for the development of Park Center,” she says. “I think the use of The Frontier is a “kick starter” for the rest of the Park’s development.  The Frontier is an innovative use of an existing building to do some exciting things with technology.  We are taking advantage of all the local, regional and national trends and bringing them into the Park.”