ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Preparations at Albany’s first not-for-profit-run grocery store are near completion. The old McDonald’s on South Pearl Street, in the heart of what’s considered a “food desert” in the Capital City, has transformed into a market that will sell fresh produce, sandwiches, and more.

Travon Jackson, lead sponsor of the South End Grocery project, showed community partners and elected officials around the space Tuesday morning. The building is just some plumbing work and a new façade away from its grand opening December 27.

“We chose to take this place and make it something different,” Jackson said, “and we did it faster than anyone thought, we did it in a place no one thought we could, and it’s all because we believed together and kept pushing.”

Help from Albany Artisans, a company that specializes in historic restoration, took the space from golden arches to a small market.

“As a preservationist, we don’t want to throw it out. We want to make reuse of it,” said Chris Hacker, owner of Albany Artisans.

Grocery shopping has long been considered a “chore” for South End residents. A town like Niskayuna has several supermarkets, some across the street from each other, while Albany’s South End has none. It can take hours for residents near the South Mall Towers to take a bus to a grocery store, shop for their items, and come back home.

NEWS10 ABC reached out to Price Chopper in 2021 about building a store in downtown Albany. They said most modern supermarkets are too big to fit in downtown locations, but they have opened smaller markets in downtown urban areas such as the Delaware and Madison Avenue stores.

“We’re trying something that has not been done here in this community,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy after Tuesday morning’s tour.

South End residents will no longer have to look far for healthy options with Jackson’s vision coming to life. It’s made possible with investments from philanthropists, produce partners like Forts Ferry Farm, and expertise from Hope Full Life Center in Ravena.

“They shouldn’t have to take a bus for four hours to get groceries,” said Rebecca Flach, Executive Director of Hope Full Life Center, “and that disturbs me.”

When the McDonald’s closed in December 2019, residents were frustrated with what felt like a pattern of businesses disappearing in their neighborhood. There were fears that a plan to replace it with something new wouldn’t materialize.

Almost three years to the day that McDonald’s shuttered its doors, Jackson will welcome in his first customers.

“People’s emotional states, and their happiness, and them feeling respected is so much higher,” Jackson told NEWS10, “simply because we chose not to give up on something they asked for.”

South End Grocery is fundraising for final costs of the grand opening.