Stephen Block, principal of Block Real Estate Services in Kansas City, Missouri, passed away following a brief illness on March 18.
Block was a dedicated family man, an influential figure in commercial real estate and a pivotal player in the community’s renaissance. Block is remembered as a champion of Midtown Kansas City’s redevelopment, especially Union Hill, Kansas City’s historic Westport district and Block Real Estate Services’ legacy office building project of 46 Penn Centre on the Country Club Plaza.
Block received national recognition for his innovative approach to urban revitalization. After he earned a chemical engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University, he joined the family’s commercial real estate business in late 1974 founded by his father, Allen. He got his start in office and retail leasing, before finding his true passion for urban core redevelopment and syndicating real estate investments.
During Block’s nearly 50-year career, he worked closely with the city’s redevelopment agencies to deliver a number of high-impact projects along Kansas City’s midtown corridor. His Midtown Marketplace development brought Costco and Home Depot to Midtown, transforming the southeast corner of Main Street and Linwood Boulevard into a bustling retail center.
He delivered a full-service grocery-anchored center to Westport via Mill Street Station at 40th and Mill Street. Block was a key member of the Union Hill redevelopment team, creating a now thriving 16-block mixed-use development at 31st and Main. Most recently, he partnered with his brother Ken Block on 46 Penn Centre, a $125 million high-rise office building on the Country Club Plaza.
Steve Block was involved in numerous civic organizations, including the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Olathe Chamber of Commerce, Broadway Westport Community Association, Main Street Special Review District, and Main Street Corridor Development Corporation.
He received numerous accolades throughout his career, including Urban Design awards and Economic Development Cornerstone awards, being named the first ever I.J. Mnookin Award winner by MainCor, and was inducted into the Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame by Midwest Real Estate News. He was a Life Member of the Missouri Million Dollar Club.
Twelve years ago, Block brought his son Max Wasserstrom into the business, mentoring and guiding him through his early years as he learned the brokerage, investment, and development sides of the business. Max worked closely with Block daily, developing an intimate knowledge of his portfolio of properties ensuring a seamless transition when the time came for him to hand over the reins.
While no one thought the day would come this soon, the leaders of Block Real Estate Services are confident that Max has the knowledge and skills to guide these investments forward.
Above all, Block was devoted to his family. He adored his wife Suzy, children Leigh (Constantine) Farmakidis and Max (Katie) Wasserstrom, and his four grandchildren. He and Suzy loved to travel the world and had many adventures throughout their 33 years of marriage.
Block had a passion for cooking, loving nothing more than to share his amazing Thanksgiving dinner with those he loved. He was an accomplished deep-sea diver and underwater photographer. He enjoyed playing golf with his friends in the Saturday Group at Oakwood. Only he could develop the computer program needed to calculate the weekly bets with records going back 30+ years.
Steve’s loss leaves us heartbroken, but his tremendous legacy — both in commercial redevelopment and in life — brings us immeasurable pride and joy. As we mourn his loss, we will also celebrate his extraordinary life, uphold the values he held dear, and continue his work to build a better future in our great city.
Memorial services will be held Thursday, March 23, at 3:30 p.m. at the New Reform Temple, 7100 Main St. in Kansas City, Missouri. A Shiva service will follow at Oakwood Country Club, 9800 Grandview Road, in Kansas City.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be sent to Operation Breakthrough or the charity of your choice.