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San Antonio has spent lavishly on Houston Street for the very purpose of equalizing the traffic. We have widened sidewalks in anticipation of the madding crowds. There are lighted palm trees and the vaunted connection at Presa Street between Houston and the River - a stairway and associated water feature calculated to "suck" people up off the River Walk. Unfortunately, the water feature is as often featuring mud as not, and the Presa-connection public art, a series of neon-illuminated, etched glass "manhole covers" set into the sidewalk as way-finding runway lights, hasn't functioned fully since its installation. (It's useless during the day even when working properly.) Should you, despite all odds, actually make it to Houston Street - past the handsome, and brave, glass gallery and the Buckhorn's enthusiastic, bless 'em, barkers - your first big urban experience is a view of a parking lot. A real crowd-pleaser every time.;This is all a shame, for Houston Street doesn't need to be our very own Boulevard of Broken Dreams. There is already a lot to offer: Between the brash Buckhorn and the posh, new Valencia hotel alone there are several cultural and commercial attractions - the Children's Museum and the Majestic and Empire Theatres among them - worth the attention of locals and visitors alike. And there are classy bars and upscale restaurants, pioneers on an underpopulated frontier. In addition to strategic and inventive marketing, the street needs the bars and the restaurants. Among the first to stake a claim was the Houston Street Bistro, and their most recent reward for vision and perseverance has been the canceling of the final portion of the symphony's season in the adjacent Majestic. So much for the prix-fixe, pre-theater menu - at least on symphony nights. - Ron Bechtol

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