For 50 years, Glen Leshore has known his community by just one name: Roxbury, “The Bury” for short.
“That’s what I’ve always called it,’’ Leshore said as he sat on his front porch recently. “And I’ve lived here all my life.”
Now, a campaign is afoot to rename a half-mile chunk of Roxbury that straddles north Blue Hill Avenue. One suggestion: “Menino Way,” in honor of late mayor Thomas M. Menino, who was an electoral powerhouse in Roxbury and a backer of redevelopment in Grove Hall and Dudley Square.
“Mayor Menino made a lot of investments in Roxbury, including this stretch,’’ said David Price, executive director of Nuestra Comunidad Development Corp., a community organization helping to spearhead the naming effort.
Boston has paid homage to Menino, who was eulogized during a tearful city farewell seven months ago. His name adorns a pavilion at Boston Medical Center, a city-run community center, a new wing at the Hyde Park branch library. Scholarships bear the name of Boston’s longest-serving mayor. There has even been chatter about tagging the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston with the Menino moniker.
Nuestra Comunidad officials e-mailed surveys June 3 to 2,200 of 3,000 residents who live in the enclave, which is bounded by Quincy, Dudley, and Warren streets. Respondents were asked to select from a list of three proposed community names: “Blue Hill North,” to denote the main thoroughfare in the area; “Blue Hill Village,” to convey a sense of the tight-knit nook; or “Menino Way,” to pay tribute to the mayor.
Residents were also asked to submit their own suggested name for the community, which is north of Grove Hall, west of Uphams Corner, and southeast of Dudley Square. Moreland Street Historic District is next to it.
“Menino Way — that’s beautiful,’’ said a woman out and about on Blue Hill Avenue recently who did not give her name. “He was a good man.”
Delores Pullen, a 66-year-old retiree from the Registry of Motor Vehicles and resident of Blue Hill Avenue, said she came up with “Menino Way’’ after a brainstorming session before the naming campaign.
“I personally liked Mayor Menino. I thought he did a lot for Roxbury,’’ Pullen said. “He was such a down-to-earth person. He wasn’t like the regular politician who snubbed their noses at us.”
Dot Joyce, who served as Menino’s spokeswoman for many years, said the former mayor loved Boston and its neighborhoods, and had a particular fondness for Dudley Square and Roxbury.
“However, Mayor Menino never believed that legacies required the naming of buildings and things,” Joyce said. “He more believed in legacies that inspire people to continue . . . building better communities.”
Some residents are irked by the notion of naming their community after Menino, saying it devalues the hard work put in by residents and community groups to turn things around.
“No. No. Not Hyde Park Menino. That’s where he lived,’’ said Rochelle Woodard, standing in the doorway of her West Cottage Street home recently. “We were instrumental in changing this neighborhood, so the name should reflect us.”
Unlike monikers of streets and squares — which require city approval — Boston community names evolve over time or through community branding. Many community names are tied to parishes, popular streets, or famous hills. Some neighborhood nooks are well known — Scollay Square, Fort Hill, Fields Corner, Adams Village. Others are not, like Barry’s Corner in Allston.
But the possibility of naming a section of Roxbury “Menino Way’’ has stirred confusion, anger, and debate among residents and politicos, some of whom said they are dismayed because they feel the idea is being foisted on them by a small group from Nuestra Comunidad. Some insist that swath of Roxbury has a name.
“We have a couple of names for that area — Dudley Village Campus and Dudley Triangle,’’ said Juan Leyton, executive director of the Dudley Square Neighborhood Initiative, which has spent the past 25 years teaming with residents to transform the area. “I’m concerned we have not been contacted about this. Nobody from Nuestra has spoken to us about their plans.”
Roxbury’s city councilor, Tito Jackson, said he is concerned that only a handful of residents were involved in creating the survey and that the focus is on “the wrong thing.”
“Let’s change the reality of people’s lives rather than the outside perception,’’ Jackson said. “The real underlying issue is that it’s critical that Roxbury determines its own destiny, and that the people who have gone through so much be able to determine where they are heading.”
Nuestra Comunidad officials said the naming initiative emerged after several months of discussions by a group of eight neighborhood residents and business people hoping to promote their area of lush gardens and large yards.
As Roxbury looks more alluring to newcomers and building booms there, Price said the group did not want developers or real estate brokers to sweep in with a new name.
“People who live in this community can see gentrification coming block by block from Fort Hill across Warren Street to the Moreland Street Historic District heading straight to this part of Blue Hill Avenue,’’ said Price, whose agency’s mission includes community organizing and revitalization. “They realize this is an opportunity for them to take a name that is a homegrown name.”
The group, whose members belong to Nuestra’s neighborhood marketing committee, mapped out the community boundaries and e-mailed the survey. Fewer than 100 people responded to the survey, but Nuestra hopes that will grow.
“What should we call this area?” reads the survey, which also includes a map, and is posted on Nuestra’s website.
Pullen, who proposed “Menino Way,” said the names suggested on the survey are meant to allow residents to begin thinking about how they want to define their community, amid rising rents and growing worry of gentrification.
“They were never etched in stone,” she said.
Instead, she said she has been the center of community criticism since the survey went out, even being confronted about it at a weekend cookout. She said people are also upset with the non-Menino suggestions — “Blue Hill North” and “Blue Hill Village’’ — saying they sounded too gentrified.
“These are suggestions,’’ Pullen exclaimed. “I wasn’t trying to disrespect anybody. We were just doing a survey to see what everybody thinks. And the only reason we didn’t get to everybody is because we didn’t finish sending them out yet.”
Jorge Martinez, who heads the antiviolence group Project R.I.G.H.T, said he expects to meet with Price soon to discuss concerns, including a failure to contact more people at the start of the naming effort.
Project R.I.G.H.T., along with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and residents in the Moreland Historic District, have spent more than two decades stamping out community scourges and have reclaimed and revived the once-ravaged area.
“These and a host of other issues have been dealt with by our strong neighborhood leadership,’’ Martinez said. “It would be most disrespectful for folks to not touch base with the leadership who have worked so hard to improve this neighborhood.”
Lorraine Wheeler, a Roxbury attorney, said she was concerned when she saw the map that Nuestra circulated, which she said includes the Moreland Street Historic District. She said she promptly called Price and complained.
“We don’t want to be included in this,’’ she said. “We have a name.”
As for Pullen, she said she’s leaving the neighborhood. She said she suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has found an apartment in Mission Hill with an elevator.