The area that TipTop Apartments is located today is a far cry from the area the building was initially built in. During that time, the area was on the outskirts of town and was comprised of industrial buildings lining the railroad. It has been used by multiple companies for manufacturing or storage in different industries. This building helped serve as a template for the Ford Motor Company's expansion and domination, and a place where a local businessman built his company from the ground up during some of the worst years of The Great Depression. It currently is allocated as a national historical landmark site, and is mentioned in many articles regarding Omaha's history and accomplishments.
Given its historical significance in certain aspects, it could be easy to assume that our site is unique and that it doesn't represent a larger trend and process across the country. This is simply not true. For example, one of the initial sources of information that lead us to investigate TipTop was the lead disclosure form, which is mandatory for any residential building built before 1978. Our site is just a blip on the grand scale of historical change and industrial churning, including ubran succession and gentrification. In Omaha alone, we mentioned the Asarco industrial site being transformed into a park and playground for children. The need to utilize any available space, and to continually renovate or upgrade, leaves us without a picture or a view into the past, specifically when it pertains to volatile or hazardous materials produced by a company that affect the general population. Despite Omaha having the designation as the largest lead Superfund site in the United States, the majority of people living within the city don't know anything about it. If they do know anything, it is generally as much as the average person across the country. If this information were more readily available and expressed, the people within Omaha would, generally, be capable of having a better perspective on it. To achieve this, there would need to be massive collections of existing data and then a cataloging of this dat into a central space. It would most likely need to be done under a federal agency, and then smaller subsets can be done for individual states. This system could resemble the national and Omaha historical landmarks site and database we used to get information on our site (20).
When searching for your own investigation, it can be hard to get started. It may seem as if there is no information on a given subject, or that there wasn't anything to investigate to begin with. If your initial searches yield little sign of these risks, then it could be understandable to stop. However, if there's any indication that your investigation could uncover some of these themes, then at the very least getting access to these resources mentioned and finding your areas' analagous resources is always valuable. Our initial search began with a lead disclosure form, but even that source of risk is not immediately apparent to the average observer. Just by being aware of the possibility, it allowed us to dig deeper and unveil some of this building's history and some potential risks.
When this type of information is hidden behind background knowledge, credentials, bad records, and often times deliberate efforts by companies to cover up this behavior, it only continues to perpetuate the system that has been functioning. We are not saying that TipTop has done this, but rather just acknowledging the barriers that exist generally to finding all relevant information. Without being able to show that there is a documented problem in specific areas or sites, there can't be any type of plan for remediation or for companies to be held reliable. Many times, these barriers are not constructed by individuals that do it intentionally. They can form through consequences of policy or practice that were unintended, gaps in communication, poor documentation, or simply lost to time as records deteriorate or are misplaced (11). For many decades, these practices impacted the least well off citizens, and acted as an insulator for the powerful and economically advantaged. With these areas becoming more affluent and shifting into areas that young, affluent people want to live, an entirely new demographic is at risk to be impacted. Our case study illustrates this, as the average Creighton student is well off, and generally hasn't lived in areas that were heavily industrialized. With our investigation into TipTop, we have been able to discover possible hazardous risks associated with the building. There hasn't been any experiments done on the site to test for these materials, so as of now we have to say that these are only risks. TipTop Apartments, and other sites similar to it, serve as a fresh coat of paint over areas that have historically produced hazardous materials. Let's just hope that this time, the paint is lead-free.