MIDDLETOWN — Jason Place in Middletown is seeing some of its best days since the closing of the Middletown Psychiatric Center.
The interior of the 70,000-plus-square-foot Woodman Hall building is white, sleek, clean. It’s more than new windows and a fresh coat of paint.
The state, community and Fei Tian College have invested millions of dollars into what was a crumbling, unkempt, abandoned part of town for several years, and is now a campus with more than 200 students that is expected to grow to more than 6,000 students by 2028, said Joseph Zhao, executive vice president of Fei Tian.
“We really want to serve the community in line with the city,” Zhao said. “We want to be part of the growth in this area and make sure we’re contributors to its economic growth.”
Two schools, a sixth- through 12th-grade high school and a college that currently offers four degrees in the arts and sciences, are housed on the campus now, and expansion is on the horizon with a nonprofit, primary care medical center opening by the end of the month with two floors of classrooms and two floors of doctors’ offices and clinics, said Karen Chang, the college’s director of advancement.
City resident Viola Martini worked for the city’s mainstay psychiatric institution for 30 years before she retired in 1996. Seeing the area revitalized is “a real plus for Middletown,” she said.
“What they’ve done to that building, I’m in awe, I really am,” Martini said by phone Wednesday.
But there are other buildings, like the 270,000-plus-square-foot Tuckerman Hall, that need serious work to be made useful.
Fei Tian has ideas for how to utilize the space with the college’s growth, but money and aid is needed to get the job done, politicians advocated Wednesday.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie stopped by for a brief tour Wednesday afternoon, where Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano and Wallkill Supervisor Edward Diana advocated for funding toward rehabilitating the infrastructure and turning over some of the decaying buildings.
“We can’t tear them down,” DeStefano said, emphasizing the structures’ history to the town.
Gunther said the college’s influence on the old psych campus’ 225 acres has turned around the once “failing city,” and additional funding to rehabilitate the buildings is crucial.
Fei Tian and Middletown found a partnership that works well together, and officials from both entities said they want to continue to work jointly to see that a thriving college campus can support the city on its upward drive.