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Amazon.com Inc. said Thursday that it plans to add 100,000 jobs nationwide over the next 18 months. And it sounds like that could include a big expansion into Boston.

The tech and retail giant is looking to lease 100,000 to 200,000 square feet of office space in downtown, enough for hundreds of employees, according to several real estate sources with knowledge of the company’s search. Amazon wants to secure a location within the first quarter, and open the new offices by year’s end, according to the sources.

Amazon already has a large and growing presence in Kendall Square, but is eying downtown Boston in part because it has cheaper rents and more available space than in nearby Cambridge. It would also join a string of tech companies that have set up shop downtown, helping to reinvent the traditional business district as a hub for a new industry.

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“Downtown Boston already has tremendous street cred in the tech world,” said Brendan Carroll, head of Encompass Real Estate Strategy, which tracks Boston’s office market. “But Amazon moving in would be a really big thing.”

Amazon did not return messages seeking comment Thursday, and the sources with knowledge of its search would not discuss it publicly, citing the ongoing negotiations. And Amazon could yet scrap the plans, or choose to expand in Cambridge instead, the sources said.

On Thursday the company laid out a broad hiring goal that would add 100,000 full-time jobs nationwide by mid-2018. Its announcement did not specifically mention Boston. But founder Jeff Bezos, in a statement, said some of the new jobs will be in cloud technology, machine learning, and advanced logistics, technologies that the company is developing at its Massachusetts facilities.

On its website, the company currently advertises 332 job openings in Cambridge and at a robotics facility it bought in North Reading in 2012.

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In August, Amazon leased an additional floor-and-a-half at 101 Main St. in Kendall Square, bringing its total space in Kendall Square to about 171,000 square feet, according to Middlesex County property records.

The Cambridge office includes a speech science lab that works on Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant product.

Most of 100,000 new jobs will come at its so-called fulfillment centers, the vast distribution facilities such as the 1-million-square-foot warehouse it opened in September in Fall River. Amazon now has 39 warehouses of that size across the country, according to Encompass data, with more now under construction and hiring.

Yet like many companies looking to keep growing in Kendall, Amazon is apparently finding that space is hard to come by, Carroll said.

“If you know one thing about Amazon, you know they move very, very fast,” he said.


Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.