How developers and churches can make love visual in your community – Sara Joy Proppe

In this episode of the Redemptification Podcast, we sit down with a pioneer in the work of bringing the church, developers, and city planning together. Sara Joy has a passion for cities, stories, and the Church. She loves to imagine how churches can be active and faithful participants in city planning and development in order to bring hope and redemption to the setting of our stories. She speaks and writes for a variety of audiences on this topic. She has worked previously as a Project Manager in commercial real estate development in Minneapolis, where she oversaw mixed-use and historic rehab developments. She serves on the Executive Board for the Congress for New Urbanism – Members Christian Caucus. She is also the co-chair for the Urban Land Institute Minnesota’s Young Leaders Executive Committee.

Sara Joy holds a B.A. in English Literature and a Masters in Community & Regional Planning. She loves to cook, garden, and bike around town. She shows her Texas roots with many aptly-placed y’alls in her conversations.

Based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, there is a team of local organizers and supporters for Proximity Project. They work in industries such as affordable housing development, economic development, real estate brokerage, urban planning, and academic research. Together they dream about how to change the Twin Cities through encouraging faithful presence and good design in their churches and neighborhoods.

Insights & Inspirations

  • “Within one or two-mile radius of my home, I found that there were over 20 churches, so they are definitely significant landowners in my own community. And I was thinking, why are they not at the table? Why are they not thinking about how to better utilize their property for the good of the neighborhood? Why are they not at development meetings? – Sara Joy Proppe
  • Proximity Project exists to move this idea forward and really engage churches in this sphere of urban planning and real estate development. – Sara Joy Proppe
  • If a church was gone all of a sudden from your community, what would be missing because of their absence? – Brad Baggett
  • Charles Montgomery, in his book, Happy City writes, “Every plaza, park, and architectural facade sends messages about who we are. “
  • We help them (churches) understand that designs really do have implications for how they interact with the neighborhood and the messages and the value statements that they send to the neighborhood. – Sara Joy Proppe
  • By adding value to the physical space on the church property you have the opportunity to make love visual for your community. – John Marsh
  • There are so many churches right now with underutilized space… there’s a lot of churches that have empty space that could be rented out to start at businesses in the community. – Sara Joy Proppe
  • At New Urbanism National Conference in Savannah this past spring. And I would say that that was a discussion point that was repeated through so many of the sessions that I sat in. That really people are looking for belonging and how do we foster that sense of belonging and what does that look like to do that through design and through urban planning?  – Sara Joy Proppe
  • God really stresses that importance of living in the community, the importance of belonging and that really this can translate to how we design our cities. And we can either encourage human interaction or we can detract from that. – Sara Joy Proppe
  • We believe that spaces change us, that we don’t just build spaces, they build us in so many ways and we call it emotional architecture, we say our design starts with a story, not a structure. – John Marsh
  • I believe the correct order we change is to belong, then they believe, and then we behave. – John Marsh
  • In the big vision, I see churches being leaders in providing good public space and in providing affordable housing and being advocates at the table for public transit and bike lanes and all of these things.  – Sara Joy Proppe
  • Churches are really starting to think more strategically about how to be involved in their neighborhood. So I would love to see churches being at city council meetings, you know, advocating, standing up and supporting development that is good for the community, that really provides for the communities needs. – Sara Joy Proppe
  • (In our city consulting) we always start with food because so much meaningful happens at the table. You decide who to marry, where to bury, what’s going to be our future hopes and dreams.  – John Marsh
  • Miracles happen at the table when we sit around lunch and talk about these things you see, well, let’s have a miracle together sometime.  – John Marsh
  • Not by necessarily anyone’s fault, but by, these are two very different spheres that the language of a developer is very different from the language of a church. But I think that there are a lot of synergies that can be tapped into there.  – Sara Joy Proppe

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