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Expert: Downtown Raleigh's growth is 'just the beginning'

Orage Quarles, the new leader of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, shares what he knows about the future of downtown Raleigh.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Orage Quarles, a new leader within the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, shares what he knows about the future of downtown Raleigh.

Quarles took over the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, a nonprofit that works with the city and property owners to keep the downtown area thriving, last month. He'll serve as the group's interim president until a permanent leader is announced.

It had been several months since Quarles worked downtown, and it didn't take him long to see how fast the area is growing. A whopping 47 new street-level businesses opened in 2016 alone, and there's no sign that things will slow down.

"I did a lot of walking around town, and, every place I looked, I kept asking myself, 'when did that open?,'" said Quarles. Quarles retired from The News and Observer last summer after spending 16 years there as the paper's publisher and editor. He has watched downtown Raleigh go from a sleepy state capital to a booming economic engine.

"This is just the beginning," said Quarles. "This is what we call 2.0."

As the leader of Downtown Raleigh Alliance, Quarles' vision is going to be a big part of that next phase of downtown Raleigh's development. "You look at everything that's here now and think about what could come, and the key is having the right balance," he said.

A big part part of that puzzle is keeping local businesses strong. "When you come and visit [Raleigh], there's a different relationship with a bunch of national retailers versus people who live, work and grew up here or just love being part of downtown," he said.

Quarles has also been busy working on the committee to plan Dix Park. As he crafts a downtown strategy, he says the park will play a huge role in the city's future.

"With Dix Park coming on board, the impact it will have on the region, it's all very positive for Raleigh," said Quarles.

The alliance is hosting its annual state of the city panel discussion Tuesday morning at the Raleigh Convention Center. Executives from business, city government, real estate and the restaurant world will share how downtown's growth factors into their industry.


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