Nothing says back-to-school quite like the Atlas in August.

This is the first school year that the Atlas apartment complex will be open. And a visit this week offered a peek at the retail and residential mix drawn to the midtown Omaha campus that stands out not only for sheer size, but also its $108 million conversion from a sterile hospital.

So far, about a third of the planned 732 apartments are finished. NuStyle Development’s Mitch Scanlan says the bulk of residents living in or moving into those units are students and young professionals tied to area colleges, primarily nearby Creighton University.

The 10-level property that will be the state’s largest single structure of market-rate apartments is open to tenants of all ages and backgrounds. But the academia-leaning residents occupying the Atlas as classes begin were evident in places such as its Roast Coffeehouse, where caffeine-seekers ordered drinks and fired up laptops.

Backpack-toting students strolled across the new 560-foot pedestrian overpass connecting the Atlas with Creighton University’s campus.

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The outside of the new Atlas Apartments at 30th and California Streets in Omaha.

Among that bridge traffic was Brad Graefe, a Creighton medical student from Maryland. His girlfriend lives in the Atlas, and he also uses the passageway as a shortcut to his parking lot.

“It’s really convenient,” he said.

In addition to Roast, Atlas residents and visitors soon will have the Fly bar and grill, a convenience store, a sandwich shop and a hair salon in the structure’s 12,000 square feet of retail space.

Among the early wave of residents is Daniel Tift, a native of the Minneapolis area. His first visit to the 30th and California Streets site actually was a few years ago — with his hand bleeding from an unwelcome shard of glass.

Back then, the Atlas was still the Creighton University Medical Center. Except for double-wide doors here and there, the recent Creighton graduate said he recognizes no trace of the old hospital.

Between job interviews this week, Tift soaked up the sun on the Atlas rooftop garden, which is next to a swimming pool, fire pits, kitchen area and an outdoor cabana with a big-screen TV.

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The rooftop view at the new Atlas Apartments.

From on high, he and other tenants can relax on front porch-like swings and patio chairs with views varying from the Missouri River to the twin towers of St. Cecilia’s Cathedral.

“Don’t even get me started on the slide, that’s the greatest amenity ever,” Tift, 23, said of the spiral slide that drops passengers onto an outdoor picnic area featuring a lagoon, walking trails and sand volleyball court.

Exterior amenities won’t be finished until later this year, but all indoor community areas are available, including a movie theater, fitness and yoga rooms and assorted nooks and crannies designed for studying and socializing.

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“The idea is that everyone can get away and find their own little place,” said NuStyle owner Todd Heistand.

From wall art representing airports of various countries to the swimming pool floor painted like a runway, the Atlas has an international theme.

“You see the whole world under one roof,” said Scanlan, NuStyle project coordinator and property manager.

But perhaps most interesting about his new home, said Tift, is the tenant mix. He said he has neighbors studying medicine, dentistry, others launching their careers.

“You get this vibe that everyone is here to be more successful,” Tift said.

Reporter - Money

Cindy covers housing and commercial real estate for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @cgonzalez_owh. Phone: 402-444-1224.

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