Plans to develop a senior residential project on a section of the town-owned Baron's South property advanced this week when firms recommended to develop and manage the complex were endorsed by the first selectman.

The Baron's South Committee has selected the Jonathan Rose Companies as its preferred developer of the mixed-income rental complex, and the Freshwater Group and its Watermark Retirement Communities to operate it, if approvals to build the project are given.

In a statement issued Tuesday, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said the committee's recommended development/management team are "companies with superior records of achievement and innovation in this field.

"Together, the companies have proposed a plan that not only provides for much-needed housing options for seniors so they can remain in Westport, but at the same time offers solid long-term financial return on our town-owned land."

Joseloff said he finds the recommendations appealing because the firms' plan would offer senior residents of the units access to services and memory-care units, and "contains affordable, moderate and market rate housing that will accommodate the needs of a wide range of Westport seniors."

He said the revamped plan for the senior residential project, in contrast to the initial plan proposed by Jonathan Rose Cos. last fall, offers a higher return to the town, has more market rate units, fewer units that qualify as "affordable," and would offer amenities such as therapeutic pool, specialized fitness center and Watermark University.

The project also would offer "synergy" with programs at the town's nearby Center for Senior Activities," he said.

He said that a visit he and other Westport officials made earlier this month to the Watermark at East Hill in Southbury helped convince him that firm could effectively manage the seniors' housing proposed in Westport.

"We saw a development that shows the potential for creating attractive, welcoming housing for Westport seniors," said Joseloff, who is leaving office in November. "I hope the next administration will embrace this recommendation and move it forward as soon as possible so the long-time dream of so many in Westport will become a reality."

The Representative Town Meeting's Long-Range Planning and Planning and Zoning committees will meet Sept. 11 to discuss the Baron's South plans with representatives of the recommended developers and operators. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall.