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.

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 . He graduated from Iowa State University in 2006 with his Bachelors of Architecture.  In the fall of 2005, while still attending Iowa State University, he worked as an architectural intern at INVISION Architecture in Des Moines.  Following graduation from ISU with his BArch, he was hired on full-time at INVISION and worked as an intern architect while completing the components for his Architectural License in Iowa.  While at INVISION in 2008, he became an Intern Development Program (IDP) Auxiliary Coordinator, a position that assists architectural interns on their path toward licensure.  He became the IDP State Coordinator for all of Iowa in May of 2009, for the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). In 2014 he stepped up to volunteer on a series of NCARB Committees and Task Forces (ARE 5.0), and continues to be active volunteering from 2014-present.  He served as the AIA Iowa IDP Committee Chair position on the AIA Iowa Board of Directors from 2009 to 2014.  In 2012, he completed his interning components and attained his license to practice Architecture in Iowa in 2012 and shortly following, attained the NCARB certification, an additional certification from NCARB. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, he was recognized by AIA Iowa in the AIA Iowa Citizen Architect Program.

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.

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 . He graduated from Iowa State University in 2006 with his Bachelors of Architecture.  In the fall of 2005, while still attending Iowa State University, he worked as an architectural intern at INVISION Architecture in Des Moines.  Following graduation from ISU with his BArch, he was hired on full-time at INVISION and worked as an intern architect while completing the components for his Architectural License in Iowa.  While at INVISION in 2008, he became an Intern Development Program (IDP) Auxiliary Coordinator, a position that assists architectural interns on their path toward licensure.  He became the IDP State Coordinator for all of Iowa in May of 2009, for the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). In 2014 he stepped up to volunteer on a series of NCARB Committees and Task Forces (ARE 5.0), and continues to be active volunteering from 2014-present.  He served as the AIA Iowa IDP Committee Chair position on the AIA Iowa Board of Directors from 2009 to 2014.  In 2012, he completed his interning components and attained his license to practice Architecture in Iowa in 2012 and shortly following, attained the NCARB certification, an additional certification from NCARB. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, he was recognized by AIA Iowa in the AIA Iowa Citizen Architect Program.

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.