KC Made: How H&R Block shaped downtown Kansas City

Here’s the story of how a local company grew to a global enterprise — and ultimately used its success to give back to the community.

Picture of H&R Block headquarters

That’s a lot of tax returns.

Photo by KCtoday

Table of Contents

Can a community get a tax return? In a roundabout way, yes. Here’s the story of how KC-based H&R Block grew from a Midtown shop on Main Street to a global enterprise — and ultimately used its success to give back to the community.

Building H&R Block

The year was 1955 when the IRS discontinued its local tax preparation services. Bookkeeping brothers Henry + Richard Bloch put an ad in the Star for tax services, and the response ultimately tripled their yearly revenue.

The brothers went on to set up franchise offices in places like New York City. By the turn of the century, H&R Block had grown to the sixth-largest accounting firm in the US.

Old photo of H&R Block's headquarters in Midtown

H&R Block (right) used to be on Main Street south of 44th Street.

Photo via the Kansas City Public Library

What happens on Main Street stays on Main Street

At the time, downtown Kansas City was a blighted eye-sore. Today, it’s the go-to destination for the biggest entertainment acts in the metro. How did that happen?

In the early 2000s, local leaders spearheaded a multi-billion private/public initiative to remake downtown. Ahead of projects like the Sprint Center and Power & Light came the new 17-story H&R Block headquarters.

Photo of H&R Block sign by entrance

Fun fact: The Bloch brothers changed it to Block so it would be pronounced right.

Photo by KCtoday

“It was important to H&R Block to stay on Main Street and to take a leadership role in partnering with the community,” 2016 H&R Block CEO and President Bill Cobb said.

By 2006, the new tower — at Main Street + 13th Street — had literally reshaped KC’s skyline. Today, its elliptical shape “sheathed in green glass” is a stand-out design along the streetcar line.

H&R Block today

Earlier this year, H&R Block announced a $10 million donation for the South Loop project. As the largest private funding gift to date, the company is yet again using it’s success to reshape downtown.

As for taxes, you can check out its online services (hopefully before Tax Day on Tuesday, April 18).