BY 1995, the inner-urban beginnings of Hope's predecessor colleges had become an exclusively suburban presence. This was no undesirable thing in itself, since it provided a campus which was soon to be enhanced and which, sited at one end of the M62 motorway, was well placed to serve the city and the wider region alike. The view was taken, however, that this exclusive suburbanism was not completely true to the founding colleges’ original mission. For this reason, a development site was sought in an inner-city area, to which Hope might transfer some of its teaching and from where it could make its Access programmes more readily available. At the same time, Hope sought to play a wider role in creating, along with others, sustainable urban regeneration. The opportunity to do this was conveniently provided by Liverpool's Objective One status for European Regional Development Funding.
Numerous potential inner-city sites were considered. The one chosen, in 1997, was on Shaw Street in Liverpool 3. It contained, prominently, the stunning Victorian Gothic church, St Francis Xavier's, a Grade II* listed building dating from 1848, by the architect J. J. Scholes, and still in use. Equally impressive and overlooking the Islington relief road was the building of the former St Francis Xavier's School, like the church originally a Jesuit foundation, and commonly referred to as SFX. The school had moved to new premises in Woolton some forty years previously, and since then, although partial uses had been found for the empty building, it had not been restored or even maintained. As a result, the roof was gone and extensive weather damage to the interior had occurred. Like so many other such buildings, it symbolised the city's decay: the more so because of its prominent hillside location, highly visible from an arterial road. The rest of the site afforded space for two more buildings, as well as for a large open area in the middle. All this was surrounded by general dereliction, apart from there being some attractive modern houses along part of one side. Standing opposite was the former Liverpool Collegiate School building, also long in decay; as was a row of once fine Georgian houses further along Shaw Street. Apart from access to the church, the whole site was surrounded by high walls topped by barbed wire and posted with ‘keep out’ signs.