Design & Architecture


Heart of America Group provides creative and technical design services turning blueprints, sketches and visions into not only buildings – but experiences. Our design is unique and unexpected, from the architectural style – to the well thought-out interiors and décor.

Kim Whalen

Kim Whalen - Founder

Ms. Whalen began her career with Heart of America in 1979 when she joined the company as the first accountant and has since been an integral part of the strategic direction of the company. Her ability to manage accounting processes for restaurants and hotels, development projects, as well as maintain strong banker and vendor relationships led her to become Heart of America’s first CFO. Since 1999, she has served as the Executive Vice President. Her unique knack for thinking strategically and creatively parlayed her into a leadership role on the design team, where she focuses her energy on developing attractive, unique designs for the company’s development and renovation projects.

Dan Oliver

Dan Oliver - Corporate Architect, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Since 1999, Mr. Oliver has served as Corporate Architect for the Company and is responsible for the design process, including plans and specifications (with support from our other architects), for new project developments and property renovations. Mr. Oliver is a LEED certified architect. Prior to joining the Heart of America, Mr. Oliver was the Director of Design for Design Build Associates, a Ryan Company, from 1993 to 1999, and was an Architect with Mekus Johnson in Chicago from 1988 to 1993. Mr. Oliver received his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois in 1988.

Jenny McGowan

Jenny McGowan - Director of Design

Ms. McGowan joined Heart of America Group in 2016 as Director of Design. In her role she is responsible for creating and translating the design vision into environmental designs consistent with Heart of America’s values.  She ensures that projects adhere to budget, schedule and approved design vision. Prior to joining the company, Ms. McGowan worked for Walt Disney Imagineering as an Interior Design Lead at the Shanghai Disneyland Resort. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Iowa State University.

Emily Storm

Emily Storm - Interior Designer

Ms. Storm joined Heart of America Group in 2017 as an Interior Designer. In her role she works with the design team to create and develop the design vision. Prior to joining the company, Ms. Storm worked as an Interior Designer for residential clients. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Iowa State University.

Craig Shannon

Craig Shannon - Architect, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

Mr. Shannon, AIA, LEED AP BD + C, NCARB joined Heart of America Group as an architect in 2014. In his role he is responsible for project design, document coordination and construction administration for new developments and property renovations. Prior to joining Heart of America Group, Mr. Shannon worked for INVISION in Des Moines, where he worked on a myriad of project types in just as many roles, from space planner, modeler, Architect and specifications writing. He is a LEED Accredited Professional with experience in LEED Gold, LEED Silver and LEED Certified projects. He earned his Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from Iowa State University. He is an active member and director on professional boards and organizations at a national level as well as at a local level including: National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) American Institute of Architects member, American Institute of Architects – Iowa Chapter member, River Music Experience, and recognized by AIA Iowa in the AIA Iowa Citizen Architect Program each year since 2014.

Caleb Rogers

Caleb Rogers - Architect, AIA, LEED AP

Mr. Rogers joined Heart of America in 2015 as Corporate Architect and Dam Inspector for Heart of America Group. In this role he is responsible for project design and renovation. He is a LEED Accredited Professional with experience leading teams through historic renovations, EnergyStar projects, and myriad of other project types in multiple states. He earned Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from Iowa State University.

Nate Pucel

Nate Pucel - Architectural Associate, Assoc. AIA

Mr. Pucel joined the Heart of America Group in 2014 as an Architectural Designer. In his role, he works collectively with the design team, creating construction documents and virtual models for a wide variety of projects. He has both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois.

Luz Upegui

Luz Upegui - Architectural Associate, Assoc. AIA

Ms. Upegui joined the Heart of America team in 2014 as an Architectural Intern. In her current role, she works closely with our architects throughout the design process developing a strong fundamental knowledge of architecture and practical skills in concept design, 3D modeling, and visualization. Ms. Upegui received her Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois in 2016 and is completing her final year of graduate school at the University of Illinois working towards her Master’s Degree in Architecture.

Design & Architecture


Heart of America Group provides creative and technical design services turning blueprints. sketches and visions into not only buildings – but experiences. Our design is unique and unexpected, from the architectural style – to the well thought-out interiors and décor.

Kim Whalen

Kim Whalen - Founder

Ms. Whalen began her career with Heart of America in 1979 when she joined the company as the first accountant and has since been an integral part of the strategic direction of the company. Her ability to manage accounting processes for restaurants and hotels, development projects, as well as maintain strong banker and vendor relationships led her to become Heart of America’s first CFO. Since 1999, she has served as the Executive Vice President. Her unique knack for thinking strategically and creatively parlayed her into a leadership role on the design team, where she focuses her energy on developing attractive, unique designs for the company’s development and renovation projects.

Dan Oliver

Dan Oliver - Corporate Architect, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Since 1999, Mr. Oliver has served as Corporate Architect for the Company and is responsible for the design process, including plans and specifications (with support from our other architects), for new project developments and property renovations. Mr. Oliver is a LEED certified architect. Prior to joining the Heart of America, Mr. Oliver was the Director of Design for Design Build Associates, a Ryan Company, from 1993 to 1999, and was an Architect with Mekus Johnson in Chicago from 1988 to 1993. Mr. Oliver received his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois in 1988.

Jenny McGowan

Jenny McGowan - Director of Design

Ms. McGowan joined Heart of America Group in 2016 as Director of Design. In her role she is responsible for creating and translating the design vision into environmental designs consistent with Heart of America’s values.  She ensures that projects adhere to budget, schedule and approved design vision. Prior to joining the company, Ms. McGowan worked for Walt Disney Imagineering as an Interior Design Lead at the Shanghai Disneyland Resort. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Iowa State University.

Emily Storm

Emily Storm - Interior Designer

Ms. Storm joined Heart of America Group in 2017 as an Interior Designer. In her role she works with the design team to create and develop the design vision. Prior to joining the company, Ms. Storm worked as an Interior Designer for residential clients. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Iowa State University.

Craig Shannon

Craig Shannon - Architect, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

Mr. Shannon, AIA, LEED AP BD + C, NCARB joined Heart of America Group as an architect in 2014. In his role he is responsible for project design, document coordination and construction administration for new developments and property renovations. Prior to joining Heart of America Group, Mr. Shannon worked for INVISION in Des Moines, where he worked on a myriad of project types in just as many roles, from space planner, modeler, Architect and specifications writing. He is a LEED Accredited Professional with experience in LEED Gold, LEED Silver and LEED Certified projects. He earned his Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from Iowa State University. He is an active member and director on professional boards and organizations at a national level as well as at a local level including: National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) American Institute of Architects member, American Institute of Architects – Iowa Chapter member, River Music Experience, and recognized by AIA Iowa in the AIA Iowa Citizen Architect Program each year since 2014.

Caleb Rogers

Caleb Rogers - Architect, AIA, LEED AP

Mr. Rogers joined Heart of America in 2015 as Corporate Architect and Dam Inspector for Heart of America Group. In this role he is responsible for project design and renovation. He is a LEED Accredited Professional with experience leading teams through historic renovations, EnergyStar projects, and myriad of other project types in multiple states. He earned Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from Iowa State University.

Nate Pucel

Nate Pucel - Architectural Associate, Assoc. AIA

Ms. McGowan joined Heart of America Group in 2016 as Director of Design. In her role she is responsible for creating and translating the design vision into environmental designs consistent with Heart of America’s values. She ensures that projects adhere to budget, schedule and approved design vision. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Iowa State University.

Luz Upegui

Luz Upegui - Architectural Associate, Assoc. AIA

Ms. Upegui joined the Heart of America team in 2014 as an Architectural Intern. In her current role, she works closely with our architects throughout the design process developing a strong fundamental knowledge of architecture and practical skills in concept design, 3D modeling, and visualization. Ms. Upegui received her Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois in 2016 and is completing her final year of graduate school at the University of Illinois working towards her Master’s Degree in Architecture.

Heart of America Group is a consortium of independent companies whose successes are in fields of development, restaurant hospitality, lodging hospitality, franchising, design, architecture, construction, operational management and support, marketing, retail & office centers, residential development, civic involvement and philanthropy. The companies often work together, and draw upon the members’ unique array of expertise, to vision and create cutting-edge world-class projects. The skill and speed with which Heart of America Group’s members can combine and focus their resources is unmatched by any other organization.