In the late 1990s Cork Corporation (now Cork City Council) was concerned at the amount of vehicular traffic using St Patrick's Street and other parts of the city centre. The city centre seemed to cater more for the motorist than for the pedestrian. Having put in place a number of developments to enable many motorists to bypass the city centre, the Council felt that the time was right to redevelop the city centre and to make it a more welcoming place for pedestrians. With this end in view, the Council invited architects to submit plans for a renovation of the city centre, to create a more vibrant, modern, visually attractive space, which would be more accomodating to pedestrians, while still allowing vehicular access vital to the functioning of a commerical city centre.
The design chosen by the Council was that submited by the distinguished Catalan architect, Beth Gali. Her design emphasised the need to recover the public spaces of the city centre for citizens. Cork City Council and the Government each provided a 50% share of the €13 million to fund the redevelopment of St Patrick's Street. Between summer 2002 and summer 2004, the entire street was repaved with granite and limestone in a variety of colours. Traffic is now largely confined to two lanes. The design aims to provide for a desirable level of traffic in the city centre rather than maximising the throughput of traffic. The pavements have been widened to create plaza-like effects. The new spacious pavements are now more pedestrian-friendly. To emphasise the sense of space, street furniture has been reduced to a minimum.
Lord Mayor Cllr Seán Martin officially opening the redeveloped St Patrick's Street in 2004
Special lamps illuminate the street. These include tall lamps ('Pitmit' and 'Flannery' designs) to produce both diffuse and concentrated lighting, and ground lamps set into the pavement. The designs of the tall lamps are reminiscent of ships' masts, reflecting the city's maritime culture, a vital element in the history of Cork. Commenting on the tall lamps, architect Beth Gali said she 'tried to bring the spirit of the harbour into the city'. Completed in time for the city to celebrate and host the the European Capital of Culture in 2005 the street's redevelopment scheme was officially opened by Lord Mayor Seán Martin on 22 September 2004.