FOUR hundred people toasted the completion of the first phase of Dorchester’s Brewery Square development.

New tenants and shopkeepers were among those to enjoy a Pimms and jazz evening to mark the occasion.

The first phase of the scheme has taken around 18 months to complete and includes a new health centre, the Eldridge Pope Building, the Weymouth Avenue Frontage and Eldridge Mews.

Co-director of the development Andrew Wadsworth said the scheme had been a ‘fantastic success story’ so far and was defying the gloomy economic climate.

He said: “Seven of the shops in phase one are let and the other two are under offer.

“All of the apartments in the Eldridge Pope building are sold, that’s eight units, and we have got 20 apartments in phase two that have been pre-sold which is a testament to the quality of the scheme. The project remains Savills’s most successful residential new homes development in the country out of 260 schemes.”

Mr Wadsworth added that he was glad to see independent retailers had taken the opportunity to get involved with the scheme in the first phase and was confident they would prove a success.

He said: “A lot of people thought it was all going to be national names in phase one but we have got no national names and we have always said that was what our intention was.

“We always thought these small shops were more suited to local independents.”

Mr Wadsworth said the scheme was already bring benefits to the wider town and that, unlike many parts of the country, Dorchester was generally a positive place for business at the moment.

He said: “You look at what Wellworths has done and Dorchester itself is a picture of success amongst quite a lot of gloom.”

Mr Wadsworth is focusing on repeating the success in the development’s second phase – out of three – which will involve a construction period of around 20 months.

Two big-name restaurants have already signed up and Mr Wadsworth says there has been plenty more expressions of interest.

He said: “Café Rouge will be going in the Bonded Stores and they have taken a 3,100 square feet restaurant.

“Pizza Express will be in the Fairfield Building and that will be a 3,000 square feet restaurant. That’s a fantastic development and we have already exchanged contracts with them.”