Raleigh Report

Former N&O publisher named interim Downtown Raleigh Alliance leader

Orage Quarles
Orage Quarles

A man who led a downtown Raleigh company for 16 years will lead the district’s top advocacy group.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance announced on Monday that former News & Observer Publisher Orage Quarles III will serve as the nonprofit’s interim director while its board recruits someone to replace former leader David Diaz, who’s leaving for another job on March 10. Quarles retired from The N&O last summer and was replaced by Sara Glines.

The DRA board picked Quarles because he showed “strategic leadership” by diversifying The N&O’s business to adjust to the changing media landscape, according to a DRA statement.

“As they navigated the economic downturn that caused significant cuts to advertising revenue and numbers of full-time staff, Quarles’ leadership drove the paper to double its free community newspaper offerings and significantly grew its online presence,” the statement says.

The DRA statement didn’t forecast how long it might take to hire a new president. Jon Wilson, chairman of the board, said he looks forward to working with Quarles.

“He brings a wealth of experience and connections to lead DRA through the continued revitalization and enhancement of the downtown area,” Wilson said.

The DRA is funded by a special tax on downtown property owners and private donations and serves an area that’s roughly defined by Peace Street in the north, Glenwood Avenue in the west, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the South and Blount Street in the east, in addition to Moore Square.

Over the last decade, the DRA doubled its annual budget to $2.1 million from $900,000 and became known for hosting events such as Restaurant Week, First Friday and the downtown Farmers Market.

Diaz, who joined DRA in 2007, is leaving to become president of Tysons Partnership in Fairfax County, Va. Quarles, for his part, previously served on the DRA board of directors from 2001 to 2007.

He currently serves on many boards throughout the community, including the N.C. Museum of History and the Dix Park Conservancy.

“I am proud to contribute to an organization that has had such a positive impact on downtown Raleigh,” Quarles said in a statement. “I look forward to contributing to DRA’s vision for revitalizing the downtown area and fostering their momentum in enhancing quality of life and economic success.”

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht