H&R Block Headquarters Celebrates 10 Years Downtown
In the early 2000s, empty parking lots and vacant buildings pockmarked downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Decades of neglect had taken its toll on the urban core. The area was ripe for revitalization, but it wasn’t going to happen on its own. So area leaders, citizens and businesses came together to spark and ignite a renewed interest and vision to reshape the future of downtown Kansas City.
As public and private investors poured money into dozens of projects, ratty structures were revamped or removed, new buildings went up – and downtown became a destination, not a detour. Projects included:
- Sprint Center, a major concert and sports venue
- The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
- The Kansas City Power & Light District, an entertainment area of more than 500,000-square-feet – filled with clubs, theaters, shops and restaurants, and a full-service, downtown grocery store
- The continued growth of the Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City’s eclectic enclave of boutique shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants, creative businesses, studios and art galleries
- The restoration of the Midland Theatre, a 3,573-seat historic theater built in French and Italian Baroque in 1927
- A spate of upscale lofts and apartments, some new and some converted from historic buildings, like the Kansas City Power & Light Building,
- The updated Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which sports modern conveniences in a vintage setting
- New business operations, including a multistory, glassed-in printing plant for The Kansas City Star
- KC Streetcar, a $100 million electric streetcar system line that zips shoppers, workers and residents to their destinations and has sparked more than $1 billion of new development nearby
In the heart of it all stands the H&R Block Center, the H&R Block headquarters
Founded in 1955, the company celebrates 10 years in its downtown location at 13th and Main streets on Oct. 13. Now an anchor in the Power & Light District, H&R Block was among the first companies to take a chance on revitalizing downtown.
“We’ve been in Kansas City for more than half a century, since Henry and Richard Bloch founded the company in midtown on Main Street,” said H&R Block CEO and President Bill Cobb. “It was important to H&R Block to stay on Main Street and to take a leadership role in partnering with the community to revitalize downtown Kansas City.”
“The growth, energy and rebirth of the downtown area surrounding H&R Block Center has helped us attract and retain the best and brightest people as our associates, so we can better serve our clients.”
H&R Block Center brought together 1,600 company associates from a half-dozen former
locations in the metropolitan area. The 525,000-sq. ft. complex includes a 17-story high-rise tower and a three-story low-rise structure of glass and stone.
“We knew we needed one place where we could continue to grow together, and this is the perfect spot,” said Karen Orosco, currently senior vice president, H&R Block US Retail Sales and Service, who served as project lead for the H&R Block headquarters building. “The building, work spaces and meeting rooms at H&R Block Center enable and support H&R Block’s culture of collaboration, teamwork and innovation.”
But H&R Block’s new location did more than reinvigorate our own business.
“Building H&R Block Center helped revitalize downtown and allowed H&R Block to become part of something bigger than ourselves, which spoke to the heritage of giving back to the community. That’s something our founders always instilled,” said Orosco.
Design features of H&R Block Center include:
- A distinctive elliptical shape for the high-rise tower sheathed in green glass for maximum light and a bright, open atmosphere
- A dramatic two-story atrium connecting high- and low-rise structures. Features include an 18-foot natural stone “water wall,” a floating staircase leading to a state-of-the-art Knowledge Center for meetings and training, and a diversity of art by local and regional artists. All of the atrium and lobby art is open for public viewing, and rotating exhibits including student and associate art are also displayed.
- A year-round tax office tucked beneath the low-rise building, with entry from the street
- A 319-seat theatre/auditorium in the low-rise structure, shared by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and H&R Block in a unique partnership
- More than 160 conference rooms of various shapes and sizes
- An open floor plan that puts managers with their teams, and movable work stations that foster interaction and teamwork
- Amenities for associates, including free covered parking, a game room, dry cleaning services, and a cafeteria that’s also open to the public
The company broke ground for H&R Block Center in October 2004, less than a year after announcing site selection in December 2003. The first associates relocated to the new main building in July 2006 and all moves were completed by October 2006. Construction on the cafeteria and Knowledge Center were completed in 2007. JE Dunn Construction Group served as general contractor, and 360 Architecture designed the structure and inside spaces; both are based in Kansas City.
“H&R Block and our associates are extremely proud to celebrate 10 years of being part of the progress of the amazing turnaround happening all around our headquarters building,” said Cobb, “and we look forward to helping drive continued growth for decades to come.”
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As senior vice president of U.S. retail for H&R Block, Karen Orosco leads 75,000 associates in nearly 7,000 offices across the country.